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Film / Splash

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It is said that everyone has a soul mate, someone with whom they are destined to fall in love and be with for the rest of their lives, regardless of age, gender, geography...

...or, it seems, species.

Splash is a 1984 fantasy romantic comedy directed by Ron Howard, surrounding the fairy-tale romance between Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) and the mermaid (Daryl Hannah) who rescued him from drowning as a boy. Allen grew to adulthood, believing the young mermaid he saw in the water was only a hallucination, until she again saves him from drowning - but in doing so appears on the radar of Dr. Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy), an eccentric, disgraced scientist who wants to prove the existence of mythical creatures like mermaids.

The mermaid seeks him out on land (she develops legs when her tail is dry), coming ashore on Liberty Island to track him down with information from his wallet, dropped during his latest dip in the ocean. As she has no concept of clothing, she is arrested for indecent exposure, and the cops release her into Allen's custody, based on the wallet she carries. But Kornbluth is hot on her trail, and he has scientific pursuits in mind for her...

Can these Star-Crossed Lovers find romance? Can she convince Allen that his series of failed romances are just destiny knocking him on the head? What will their kids look like?

The film was followed by a TV movie sequel Splash Too which recast all the lead parts.

Splash was the first movie released by Disney under the Touchstone Pictures label (then known as "Touchstone Films").

A remake has been announced, with a twist - the main characters have been Gender Flipped. Channing Tatum is attached to star in it.

Allen Bauer thought he'd never find the right trope. He was only half wrong:

  • Action Girl: As a child and as an adult, Madison saved Allen from drowning in Cape Cod. Madison also saved Allen from drowning in the East River, thanks to an Underwater Kiss Madison gives Allen, allowing him to breathe underwater. Furthermore, Madison manages to defeat the military divers by ripping off their scuba masks and using her tail to hit them in the face and crotch.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The saleslady at “Bloomingdales”, who speaks in a Brooklyn accent and says “Dah-ling” instead of “Darling”.note  An earlier draft of the script explicitly describes the saleslady (named “Ms. Stein”) as “very New York Jewish”.
  • Apparently Human Merfolk: What Allen becomes at the end of the first movie, no tail like Madison but he can now breathe underwater.
  • Armies Are Evil: As the two race back to the ocean, Allen and Madison get pursued by U.S. Coast Guard sailors ordered to capture the mermaid. The Coast Guard are the final antagonists at the end of the movie.
  • Award-Bait Song: The end credits song Love Came For Me sung by Rita Coolidge. note 
  • Bathtub Mermaid: Madison, a mermaid, comes to land and her tail becomes legs & feet when she's dry. But when she relaxes in the bathtub they revert.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Once it is revealed he was sleeping with an aquatic creature, Allen gets quite a few odd looks from his employees.
  • Big Applesauce: Takes place in NYC, except for the portions at Cape Cod, Massachusetts and underwater.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The bitter part is Allen will never see his brother, friends, or even Kornbluth again, and his brother is likely going to be arrested. The sweet part is being with Madison always.
  • Bowdlerize:
    • The print streaming on Disney+ from April 2020-November 2022 censors all nudity on the part of Daryl Hannah (her hair was digitally extended to cover her bare rear end and a lot of scenes with Hannah being toplessnote  had to either be cropped or replaced with alternate footage). Disney undid the censorship for the movie's 4K remaster, which Disney+ will only show to viewers 17 or older.
    • Over in the UK, the version shown on Disney Magic cut a clothing store clerk's line about how her daughter is lucky to fit all her clothes because she has anorexia. This also wasn't cut when streamed on Disney+, even though audiences these days would be offended over the implication that it's okay to have an eating disorder to fit into clothes.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Kornbluth calls out the other scientists, especially Ross, for performing experiments on a non-consenting person, and planning to dissect her.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The movie starts out as a fairly light-hearted romance film. Then it gets a lot more serious when Madison's secret is exposed and she's taken prisoner by the government, endangering her life.
  • The Chew Toy: Kornbluth goes through quite a bit of torment trying to prove the existence of mermaids.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Allen and Freddy's secretary, who was hit in the head with lightning.
  • Crazy Consumption: Madison is this with the lobster at the restaurant.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Don't ask Madison to speak her native language above water.
  • Depraved Dentist: Played for Laughs, when a remorseful Kornbluth demands that his dentist operate on him without any anathestic. The dentist seems all too eager to cause Kornbluth pain.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Kornbluth never imagined his scientific colleagues would dissect Madison and treat her like a test subject while also sidelining him from any fame.
  • Dirty Kid: Freddie was perverted even as a child. His childhood modus operandi was dropping coins next to a lady in a dress. He continues this routine as a 30-year-old man.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Despite proving the existence of mermaids, Dr. Kornbluth is still treated like a joke by his colleagues. This is a factor in his eventual Heel–Face Turn.
  • Dr. Jerk: Dr. Ross, a cold-hearted scientist who is willing to dissect a sentient being For Science! and mocks and belittles his rival Kornbluth.
  • Elevator Going Down: Allen and Madison have sex in the elevator.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Kornbluth may be somewhat egotistical, but he is appalled when his colleagues want to dissect a sapient being. Even before learning that Kornbluth showed concern for Madison's well-being by pointing out she was looking pale.
  • Fanservice: Any of Madison's assorted nude moments, and this is a PG-rated movie!
  • Fish out of Water: A semi-literal example with Madison. She's quite ignorant of cultural norms and other things about life on land. She learns some from watching TV, but she also picks up some wildly mistaken ideas.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Allen and Madison have known each other for only a short time before he decides to live with her forever underwater.
    • He was also insisting on getting married to Madison before the reveal, despite her early discomfort when he proposed.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Besides the moments with Madison's bare ass and nude breasts, Madison's genitalia are briefly visible from behind when she first dives into the water after kissing Allen on the beach, and when she is walking around at the Statue of Liberty.
  • Godiva Hair: When Madison arrives to Liberty Island, she's only covered by her hair. When the film debuted on Disney+ in 2020, viewers quickly spotted that the brief scene of Madison running into the ocean nude (which shows her bare butt) had been censored by digitally extending her already long hair down to the tops of her thighs.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Madison.
  • Haven't You Seen X Before?:
    Freddie: What are you looking at? You never seen a guy who slept with a fish before? Get back to work!
  • Heel–Face Turn: Dr. Kornbluth, upon learning that his colleagues plan to dissect Madison and how he would never earn the respect amongst the scientific community he deserves despite proving the existence of merfolk. Kornbluth never wanted to hurt anybody, he just wanted to prove he was right and not be a butt of their jokes.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Allen becomes this as he separates Madison from the hands of those who want to contain Madison for research and examine her biology.
  • Hidden Depths: Freddy spends most of the movie as the Lovable Sex Maniac Plucky Comic Relief. Then Allen gripes that people fall in love "every day. Look at what I got." Freddy gets dead serious, gives Allen a blistering "The Reason You Suck" Speech, then says that Allen doesn't appreciate how lucky he is to have someone like Madison. "Every day?! Come on! Some people will never be that happy! I'll never be that happy!"
  • The Hilarity of Hats: Stan the Tour Guide insists, "Do not touch my hat. Do not EVER touch my hat."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Had Dr. Ross not been so disrespectful to Kornbluth, it is likely wouldn't driven the guy to help Allen and Freddie rescue Madison from his dirty clutches.
  • Humans Are Bastards: How do humans react to a mermaid? All but one (and his friends) try to capture her for science. All but Kornbluth don't even notice how sickly she becomes in their captivity. Worse, the scientists were planning on dissecting her.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: "No one here, just me and the moron twins." "We're not twins!"
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Kornbluth, until he exposes Madison: his guilt and the lack of respect he gets from his fellow scientists fills him with nothing but regret.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: The scientists treat Madison like an animal, even though she's a sentient human-like being who even speaks English; they keep her confined in a lab and plan to dissect her. As time was likely running out for her to be able to return to the sea, Allen, Freddy and Kornbluth had to rescue her immediately, since any legal procedures to protect her would have taken too long.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Madison makes a spectacular landfall in search of Allen.
  • Insane Proprietor: Crazy Eddie scares mermaids.
  • Instant Expert: Madison was able to learn English from a single afternoon of watching television.
  • Interspecies Romance: The film is about a romance between a mermaid and a human.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Freddie. He may be lecherous, rude, and insensitive, but he has a good core.
    • Dr. Kornbluth, as well. He goes to extreme measures to prove the existence of mermaids. However, he changes his attitude when he learns of the lengths the other scientists want to go to study her.
  • Karma Houdini: Dr. Ross never gets any comeuppance for wanting to dissect Madison and railroading Kornbluth, other then losing his prized specimen.
  • Kavorka Man: Freddy apparently gets a lot of women despite being played by the rotund John Candy.
  • Language of Love: Allen and Madison have a shag in an elevator before they even share a common language.
  • Large Ham: Dr. Kornbluth is very prone to shouting.
    Kornbluth: BEHOLD THE MERMAID!
  • Lightning Bruiser: Madison as a mermaid is this. Not so much in her human form.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Madison picks her human name from a street sign, and Allen thinks that it's a strange name. At the time of the film, Madison wasn't a woman's namenote . Its rise in popularity in real life stems from this very film, making this joke a relic.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Freddy, who has been married countless times (even bringing a date to one of his own weddings), watches a lot of Swedish sex movies, writes letters to Penthouse and will pick up multiple women in one night. However, he's still our Plucky Comic Relief who believes in true love.
  • Love at First Sight: Allen and Madison fall in love almost instantly.
  • Mad Scientist: Kornbluth is more of a Played for Laughs Large Ham example. His rival Dr. Ross, while more subdued and serious-sounding then Kornbluth, is an amoral Played for Drama example as he wants to vivisect Madison in spite of her being a sentient person, in contrast to Kornbluth's own morals and conscience he keeps.
  • Magical Girlfriend: Allen is a normal guy who manages to hook up with a hot mermaid.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: After her first day together with Allen, Madison sneaks into the bathroom at night and takes a bath, transforming herself back into a mermaid. Allen hears strange noises and wants to come in, but Madison won't let him. Eventually, he breaks the door, but by that time, she dried herself off:
    Allen: Are you okay?
    Madison: Yeah.
    Allen: Well, why wouldn't you let me in?
    Madison: I was... shy.
    Allen: You were shy? After the car, and the elevator, and the bedroom, and on top of the refrigerator, you were shy?
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Kornbluth succeeds in exposing Madison to the public. However, he's still horribly disrespected by his colleagues, sidelined from receiving the fame he craved, and is left heartbroken with the realization that he damned a sentient being to captivity and vivisection.
  • Mermaid Problem: Solved with the dry land = legs solution. The press points it out when they hound Allen with their ridiculous questions.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Allen and Madison meet as children, and instantly fall in love.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: Madison is supposed to be swimming around Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The problem is that she swims past coral reefs, and there are no coral reefs near Cape Cod since the water is too cold. Those scenes were actually filmed in The Bahamas.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Madison, especially when she is first seen nude.
  • MST3K Mantra: Tom Hanks invoked it in this appearance on Entertainment Tonight back in March 1984.
    "I think everybody is willing to blow any semblance of reality away when they're talking about mermaids. Mermaids, they're deeply rooted as far as folklore is concerned....Okay, all right, we know it doesn't happen, we know it isn't possible, but, let's have a little bit of fun here...I mean, it's only an hour-and-a-half, an hour and forty minutes, There's plenty of time to deal with the hard edge of reality."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dr. Kornbluth, when he learns they're going to kill the mermaid. All he wanted was to show people he's not crazy, which eventually turned out to be for nothing when his rival Dr. Ross expresses Kornbluth will always be a disgrace of a scientist in his eyes no matter how much he wants to prove he isn't. Too bad his mentor wasn't around to say "I hope you're happy now?" and express his disappointment. Kornbluth drops from the film's initial Big Bad to someone who hardly registers as a Mook, and immediately helps Allen and Freddie spring Madison from captivity.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: When Dr. Kornbluth tries to pass off Allen and Freddie as visiting Swedish scientists to get them into the research facility where Madison is being held, a suspicious guard asks Allen and Freddie in Swedish, "What are two Swedish scientists doing so far from Sweden?" The guard jovially allows them entry after Freddie tentatively responds in Swedish, "Hey, babe! I got a twelve-inch penis." Freddie later explains that he picked up some Swedish phrases from watching hours of Swedish pornography.
  • Naked First Impression: Madison being nude on the beach when Allen sees her in adult human form for the first time.
  • Naked on Arrival: Madison has no clothes when she transforms into human form so her first encounters on the beach with Allen and outside the Statue of Liberty have her naked.
  • Naked People Are Funny: What's really funny is Madison's (lack of) reaction to people seeing her naked.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Despite the Godiva Hair, there are a few underwater shots where the hair doesn't cover Madison's... uh, headlights.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Madison is completely nude when Allen first encounters her, which doesn't bother or distract him in any obvious way.
  • Not So Above It All: Despite appearing to approach his scientific career in a more professional manner, Dr. Ross proves himself to be much worse Mad Scientist than his outwardly acting rival Kornbluth due to his amoral treatment of the sentient Madison while doing experiments on her and his plan to dissect her without battling an eye in contrast to Kornbluth's own morals.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Kornbluth goes through no small amount of torment...but eventually exposes Madison as a mermaid.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Madison is a classic mermaid with the variation that she can turn her tail into legs by keeping them dry. If they get wet, they'll instantly turn back into a tail.
  • Painful Transformation: Ron Howard wanted something like this for the bathtub sequence, but decided it would ruin the appeal of the character.
  • Phony Veteran: Invoked by Freddie who makes up a story about Allen serving in Vietnam and getting injured there in order to convince one of the investors (a former Green Beret colonel) to turn "Bauer Produce" into a food chain.
  • Pink Is Feminine: Madison wears a lovely pink dress, when going out to dinner and ice skating with Allen.
  • Playing with Syringes: When Allen goes to confront Kornbluth he is at the dentist. Expecting Allen to attack him, he grabs the syringe of anesthesia to defend himself.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Madison prefers to go barefoot in her human form, despite acquiring shoes not long after finding Allen.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Madison notices that Allen’s voice sounds “funny” at the ice rink and she doesn’t realize that Allen’s “funny voice” is due to him being sarcastic. Allen berates Madison for not comprehending his sarcasm, and he assumes that sarcasm doesn’t exist where she comes from.

    Madison: You know, where I come from, it never gets cold.
    Allen: (sarcastically) Oh well, hey! What a breakthrough there! You know, you just really opened up to me there!
    Madison: Your voice sounds funny.
    Allen: (angrily) Well, it’s called sarcasm. What? They don’t have THAT where you come from either?
    Madison: (holding back her tears) No.
  • Starfish Language: The language of mermaids involves high-pitched screeching that sounds similar to a dolphin's screech. It is screechy enough to break television screens.
    "[My name is] hard to say in English..."
  • Storefront Television Display: Not really in the storefront, but after losing her in the department store, Allen finds Madison transfixed by all the TVs on display. (It's also from those TVs that she learns how to speak English.)
  • Tail Slap: Madison does this to some of the military soldiers near the end of the movie.
  • They Would Cut You Up: One of the impending examinations when Madison is rescued is implied to be dissection, or possibly even vivisection.
  • True Blue Femininity: Madison wears a blue poncho when going to town with Allen, and later wears a shimmering, blue dress when attending the president's banquet- which she initially saw on a mannequin at Bloomingdale's.
  • Truth in Television: As it turns Freddie is correct that weight affects how inebriated a person can become.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Allen starts acting this way over Madison's strange behavior and her reluctance to marry him. Then he starts being sarcastic towards her, which upsets her and she runs away for a while. Allen regrets acting that way. But this gives Madison some time for consideration of whether or not to stay with him.
  • Super-Scream: Madison has a healthy set of lungs... er, gills... oh, whatever...
  • Underwater Kiss: How Madison gives Allen the ability to breathe underwater.
  • The Unpronounceable: Madison's real name.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: It's quite an endorsement of the greatness of the Statue of Liberty that a beautiful naked woman could be walking around and nobody notices her until the tour guide brings her to their attention.
  • Water-Triggered Change: Madison turns back into a mermaid whenever her legs get wet (drying them turns them back into legs), as demonstrated in the scene where Walter sprays her with a hose.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Freddy was last seen about to be arrested by the feds. If he goes to prison, and Allen never comes back, who's going to run the company?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played frighteningly straight. The scientists (minus Kornbluth) perform various tests on Madison and plan to dissect her. They never once consider her feelings about this despite her clearly being an intelligent, sentient creature.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Allen was mortified and angry when he finds out Madison, the one person he has come to love, is a mermaid. He starts rambling about how "people fall in love every day," and he ends up with (in his word) a "fish." However, his Plucky Comic Relief brother Freddie berates him for giving up on Madison, tells him that "people fall in love every day" is nonsense, and people can never be as happy as Allen was with Madison.
    Allen: People fall in love every day, and look what I got.
    Freddie: Let's take a good look at what you got. People fall in love every day, is that what you said? Yeah? Well, that's a crock. It doesn't work that way. Some people will never be that happy! I'll never be that happy!
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Allen decides to stay with Madison in the ocean so that their relationship can continue even though now he can't return to land due to his biology being altered to breathe underwater like Madison does. In addition, he's better off avoiding land because now he's wanted by the U.S. Coast Guard for helping Madison escape.
  • Your Universe or Mine?: When Madison must go back to the ocean, she tells Allen that he can go with her, but he will never be able to return to land. It is never explained why, perhaps it may have to do with the sea hag subplot. Still, he was reluctant at first but accepts readily after saving her from government frogmen. Fairly unusual in that the man ends up choosing to stay in the woman's world rather than vice versa.