A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Splash is a 1984 comedy in which Tom Hanks falls in love with a mermaid. Literal-minded teens may take this fantasy for an idealized version of what relationships are like. Especially for young girls, this film may encourage them to think that what they look like is more important than what they think. There's some brief nudity (Madison is often shown naked from the back, with only her hair covering her private parts, Allen is naked in a tub of water in a research lab, covering his private parts with his hands) and comic violence, and the main characters are quite sex-crazed, though not much more than elevator make-out sessions are shown. Hanks' character is extremely drunk at a bar after a wedding, slurring his speech. Cigarette smoking. A character says in Swedish (with subtitles) "I have a 12-inch penis." Occasional profanity: "bitch," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "hell." Freddy is lecherous, bringing porn magazines into work, bragging of getting an erotic letter published in Penthouse, dropping coins to look up girls' skirts, etc.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Like all good romantic comedies, SPLASH is based on a preposterous premise: A modernized retelling of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, Madison (the mute but lovely Daryl Hannah) is a mermaid trying to reclaim the boy she fell in love with when he jumped off a boat near Cape Cod when he was 8. That boy is now a man in a funk -- Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks), who can't commit to his girlfriend, does the brunt of the work for his playboy brother, Freddy (John Candy), and fears he'll be alone for the rest of his life. After a swift and painful breakup, Madison emerges from the sea and falls in love with him. Allen must decide whether he's in love with her, whether he can decode her secret past, and whether he trusts her. But can Madison get him to tell her that he loves her?
Is it any good?
Still full of soggy logic and romance many years after its initial theatrical release, Splash works well enough for a fantasy. But as a modern parable about relationships, it sets a bad example for young girls -- undoubtedly a key demographic for the film, rated PG. Splash is proof that guys will date anyone if she's hot enough. Allen and Madison fall into bed together without Madison saying a word. She's prone to exposing herself in public, stealing his wallet for a shopping spree, and talking like a 10-year-old, which makes her seem, frankly, a little developmentally delayed. But she's pretty and she's hot for him. And that's all that matters.
What we have here is an image of lust based on appearance, with some hints toward love at first sight. But for young girls already preoccupied about their weight and appearance, this film has the potential to further confuse sexual attention for true affection.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether they believe that Allen is really in love with Madison. Why does he love her? Is it just because of what she looks like or because of who she is? For families with kids just starting to navigate relationships, they'll probably want to discuss the way Allen and Madison fall into bed together without speaking a single word first.
Early in his career, Tom Hanks was known for starring in slapstick and somewhat ribald '80s comedies. How has his career evolved since then? Think of other actors who have had long careers in Hollywood. Who are some actors who have gotten to play a vast array of character types, and who are some actors who almost always play the same kind of character?
Would this movie be different if the gender roles were reversed, if the lead character was a lonely woman who finds love out of nowhere when an attractive man somehow shows up in her town naked and with nothing but his ID? Would the premise (he doesn't have to be a mermaid) still work? Why or why not?
- In theaters: November 6, 1984
- On DVD or streaming: March 23, 2004
- Cast: Daryl Hannah, John Candy, Tom Hanks
- Director: Ron Howard
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Ocean Creatures
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief nudity, comic violence.
- Last updated: June 23, 2020
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