Quite literally a fish out of water tale.
The classic tale “Den lille Hayfrue” by Hans Christian Andersen, or as English depicts it, The Little Mermaid is a remarkable tale beloved by children since it was first published in 1837. The story is about a young mermaid searching for a life above the sea amongst people, where she proceeds to fall in love with a prince and makes a Faustian bargain with the sea witch to continue out her days as a human. A statue inspired by The Little Mermaid story was unveiled in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1913. The statue represents a mermaid looking longingly across the land, longing to be human. It has been a subject of vandalism over the years, from decapitations to paint jobs. Like the Hans Christian Anderson story, The Little Mermaid has been retold time after time, in some respect, the vandalism represents the times of change in society and this is seen through each adaptation. The fairy tale has been retold and modernized to this day, with the most iconic being Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Before the heralded Disney animated film was Splash.
Splash is the first Disney movie created under the Touchstone Pictures banner in 1984, as Disney wanted to produce more content for adult fare. These films would still be generally wholesome movies, however, they contained suggestions of sex, booze and sometimes drugs. You certainly wouldn’t find these ideas in the live-action Disney films before it. Splash was also the movie to get Tom Hanks out of television and into stardom.
The movie starts twenty years in the past with a young Allen on a trip with his family at Cape Cod. Allen jumps overboard to see a young mermaid before being ripped back onto the boat by the crew. Now in the present Allen (Tom Hanks), works a successful job with his brother in the shipping of produce goods, but his love life is in shambles. Allen can’t seem to find commitment in any of the women he has relationships with and they eventually leave him because of it. After a big bender Allen decides to travel back to Cape Cod to perhaps find himself, but when he’s knocked out of his boat and drowning she finds him instead. The mermaid played by Daryl Hannah watches Allen awaken on the beach and there ignites the romantic spark Allen has been missing since he first met her as a boy. When Allen approaches her she kisses him and leaves by the sea. It later becomes apparent that Splash is The Little Mermaid story without any of the context. Instead of showing us the sea hag granting her a wish, we understand that she has been given a week’s time frame for being on land. Allen and the mermaid now called Madison experience a romantic and comical relationship as she hides her true identity from him. What may seem like a happy ending is only just the beginning as Dr. Kornbluth tries to uncover who she is, while Madison must eventually confront Allen before its too late.
Splash was a fresh take on The Little Mermaid story at the time and is still holds up great. What works best is the relationship between Hanks and Hannah. Madison is a much stronger character than Ariel and heads towards society head-on in search of Allen. Allen isn’t a Prince Charming character either but a sweet down to earth guy that she shares a spark with. While these two carry the bulk of the film, the supporting characters in John Candy playing Allen’s brother, and Eugine Levi playing the villain brings a lot of wholesome laughs and fun to the screen. Splash is a good romantic comedy that doesn’t drown you in fantasy but makes the film feel like a believable tale in the present day.
The ending is spectacular and I don’t think you would see it done like that today.