Ron Howard’s Splash is a re-working of classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid, sans Andersen’s dark references to pain, voice-loss, or an evil sea witch – footage of whom was apparently left on the cutting room floor.
Set in '80s New York, it’s a fine piece of froth. But never mind Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah breaking through to stardom in the lead parts - and forget the vinyl fishtail - the real stars of the film are Eugene Levy as a demented marine biologist and John Candy as Hanks’ older brother, Freddie.
Candy is hysterical throughout and never funnier than when playing squash with a can of beer in one hand, but his performance is more than mere comedy. It’s a really sweet acting job full of compassion and truth, and he remains utterly credible even when looking up ladies’ skirts, or persuading Hanks that he is a lucky man to have fallen in love with a fish.
Levy meanwhile goes straight for the slapstick, maniacally amassing injuries throughout the action until he can barely walk for bandages and plaster casts. In lesser hands, this potty professor routine could easily have become tiresome, but Levy skilfully keeps the whole thing on track so that by the final frames you’re already half on his side and ready to cheer on his deft volte-face from mania to mermaid-saviour.
Howard keeps the whole frothy mix sparkling in the glass, working in some good running gags about dentists and policemen, and giving the boys ample ogling-time by including lots of lingering shots of Hannah, but the girls don’t mind because baby-faced Hanks is pretty easy on the eye too.
In the end, while this film says absolutely nothing about anything, it delivers all the oohs and aahs, the belly laughs and the happy ending that are the mainstays of decent Popcorn Cinema.