Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Splash.”
The Movie: “Splash”
Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy
Director: Ron Howard
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A young man is reunited with a mermaid who saved him from drowning as a boy. He falls in love with her, not knowing who or what she is.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 91 percent
Brown: Ready to trade in your red undies and bandolier for a fish tail?
I still haven’t come to grips with what the hell I watched last week with “Zardoz,” so I wanted to watch a more grounded movie this week.
And by grounded, I mean a movie with a mermaid coming ashore to fall in love with a man who can afford a (likely) million-dollar condo in New York City on the fruit salesman’s salary. And a mute person can learn an entire language after six hours of television. And Clint Howard has hair.
Look, compared to “Zardoz,” EV-ERY-THING is more grounded in reality.
Froemming, give us your first impression while I scream at wedding attendees about my latest breakup.
Froemming: Well, he affords that condo because as I learned in reading the history of the Mafia, those places were mobbed the (REDACTED) up and inflated prices ruled the day.
I saw this movie when I was a kid. It was like a lot of 1980s movies where some guy falls in love with a mermaid or a mannequin or some woman two nerds make with a Barbie doll and a computer.
The ’80s were a (REDACTED) weird time, man.
“Splash” is no different. It also comes with the sadness of seeing John Candy in his prime as Tom Hanks’ perverted older brother.
Brown, as I ponder who is more cantankerous: Eugene Levy in this movie or Larry David in everyday life, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: So the movie opens with a gross sepia-tone filter over a cruise ship patrolling Cape Cod. The year is 1964, and I’m guessing that this was pre-Vietnam War because anything after that doesn’t feel like an idyllic 1960s.
And because this movie was made in the 1980s, one of our first shots is of a young boy dropping coins all over the deck to give him the excuse to look up women’s skirts.
Surely embarrassed by the sex crimes his older brother Freddie is pulling on the deck, a dour eight-year-old Allen Bauer jumps off the boat for *checks notes* no real reason?
Naturally, everyone on the boat panics. Except for Freddie, who’s STILL LOOKING UP SKIRTS.
It also bears mentioning, Ron Howard really enjoys making drama on tour boats. I mean, who can ever forget George Bluth Sr.’s retirement party.
Froemming: The SEC has boats?
While under water, Allen is saved by The Little Mermaid (basically, since this falls under the umbrella of the House of Mouse). Allen chalks this up to a near-death hallucination, despite this little girl is very visible to everyone on the boat. Maybe in the 1960s it was OK to just leave a child stranded in the murky waters of the Cape.
Brown: I don’t get why the mermaid looked like a Dickensian orphan. That might have been the sepia tone but it was a weird choice. She looked like she was seconds away from asking for more gruel.
Froemming: This movie does not explain really anything about her world, which is odd considering Madison being a mermaid is a pretty big plot point in this.
Now we travel 20 years to 1984 New York, where Allen and Freddie run a fruit empire and probably kicking up points to the Genovese family, but explains Allen’s incredible New York condo and Freddie’s sports car.
We meet Allen, who is basically the John Candy character in “The Great Outdoors” while Candy plays the Aykroyd character from that movie in this one. I think comedy writers had only two concepts of siblings and just ran with it during this decade.
Brown: You’re not wrong. But, this movie is peak Candy. Dude steals every scene he’s in because he’s got so much likable charisma.
You know, minus the whole looking up skirts pervert thing that he STILL does in adulthood. You know how you make an irredeemable-but-likable character? Make him a sexual deviant!
Froemming: Freddie owes some “union official” favors from a poker game so Allen has to buy some rotten cherries from the guy. And this was when Brown asked me a question that brought us to the realization we watched different versions of this movie.
See, Freddie shows up with a bunch of Penthouse magazines, because they published a letter of his which I imagine Kramer got a kick from.
Brown’s Disney-Plus version blurred the magazine cover, while my Amazon Prime rental showed it. His version also blurred out Madison’s butt, which I believe was his karmic punishment for complaining about all the nudity in “Zardoz.”
Brown: The Penthouses weren’t blurred like you’d see on a perp’s face on “Cops.” It was just made hazy, like when you try to read a text message the moment you wake up.
As for Madison’s butt later, and I’ll pull a clip from it, they basically covered her ass in fur.
Anyways, while Allen is dealing with a dude yelling about cherries and a brother who is clearly going to lose his thumbs like Moe, his girlfriend keeps trying to call. Once they finally talk, Allen gets dumped because he can’t admit to the girl that he loves her.
Yeah, I don’t blame her. Normally I’d question why you move in with a guy before he professes love. But considering the apartment Allen has, I’d move in immediately.
This does lead to one of Froemming’s favorite lines in the movie.
Froemming: Yeah, so Allen and Freddie are at an employee’s wedding and Allen talks about being dumped because he didn’t love the woman and Freddie straight up says:
Which, for anyone going through a breakup, this is usually what friends will say no matter how lousy you were to your now-ex significant other. Which Allen sure as hell was in this situation.
It was my favorite moment of the whole movie.
Brown: One of my favorite scenes follow that. Allen and Freddie are ushers at a wedding, and a bunch of friends and acquaintances keep asking Allen where his girlfriend is. He can’t just be like Happy Gilmore and say she died. Allen keeps saying she’s sick until he finally loses it at someone who didn’t even ask.
That person: CLINT (REDACTED) HOWARD.
Frankly, I like that scene just because that’s how I’d react after a handful of encounters.
Froemming: Plus yelling at Clint Howard has to feel amazing.
The wedding celebration is at a bar, where Allen decided to drink away the blues, which did not work out in his favor as his head is passed out in a bowl of pretzels. Freddie is having the time of his life flirting and being John Candy in his prime.
Allen decided, after annoying a bunch of people with his drinking ramblings, to take a cab to Cape Cod…
A cab. To Cape Cod. From Manhattan. That is going to be a spendy ride.
Brown: Especially when you consider that Freddie had two women ready to go to Rio at that very second. Instead, Allen chose Massachusetts.
Come on, man… RIO!
So after spending his mob blood money on a 300-mile cab ride, Allen arrives in Cape Cod where a scientist, Dr. Walter Kornbluth (Levy) is yelling at a couple dullards he hired to help with an oceanic expedition.
This is the most high-strung Eugene Levy character I’ve seen. I’m used to seeing him give sage fatherly advice to teenagers after (REDACTED) pies. At this point in life, he’s surrounded by people who (REDACTED) mermaids.
Froemming: I think this stress leads him to ponder how Crabtown would look in the Autumn later on in life.
Allen is on a boat with some hillbilly who looks like he was a lost character from “Deliverance.” And the boat stops because water got in the engine, which is a shocking oversight from whomever made an engine for a BOAT.
The guy jumps out and swims a few miles to get his smaller boat, leaving Allen (who can’t swim) alone in the choppy waters of the Cape.
So, of course, he manages to fall out of the (REDACTED) thing. Hey, if you can’t swim, maybe don’t do stuff that might lead you to fall out of a damn boat, pal.
Brown: Also, you have money at a shore town. Get someone more reliable with a less flimsy boat.
While Allen is in the water, the boat comes back around and konks him in the head like he’s Fred Flintstone looking for a bowling ball. Allen is unconscious and his wallet has tumbled to the ocean floor. Since he can’t swim, he’s surely gonna die, right?
Nope. Instead, he wakes up on a tropical beach.
… Last time I checked, Cape Cod doesn’t have warm, pristine white sand beaches with tropical fish and coral nearby.
Froemming: Let’s let Ben Affleck answer this:
Brown: Also on the island is a naked woman who comes over and plants a kiss on Allen before jumping back in the water.
Now, in Froemming’s Amazon Prime version, he gets a peek at Daryl Hannah’s butt. Meanwhile, in my Disney-Plus viewing, Daryl Hannah’s butt got the “Cats” treatment. See for yourself.
Look, I’d curse the name of Mickey Mouse right now but I’ve seen what happens to people when they talk ill of his Holiness.
Froemming: Yeah, and after this, she is spotted by Kornbluth, who we realize over and over again, is as good a photographer as Britta from “Community.”
Brown: This mermaid finds Allen’s wallet and, with the help of some maps from a sunken ship, finds where New York City is.
Side note: Does our mermaid here come up for air, or does she have gills like Kevin Costner’s character from “Waterworld,” which is a future JOE-DOWN movie that I’m dreading.
Froemming: Does she drink her own urine like Costner in that as well?
Brown: It’s the ocean. Fish shit in it all the time. So maybe?
Froemming: So our mermaid lands in New York, at the Statue of Liberty where we get my second favorite line in this movie from the tour guide who realizes a naked woman just showed up.
This causes quite a stir, as I would imagine. She is arrested for showing off her nudity like this was Woodstock or something. And because she has Allen’s wallet, New York’s finest contact him.
Also, she just got out of the ocean. This movie tells us when her legs are wet, they turn into a fishtail. Was she just sitting around buck ass naked until her legs dried?
Brown: I’ll let Carl calmly explain that one.
So without knowing this woman’s name or her origin or if she really exists, Allen bolts from work to go to the police station. I’m sure the cops told him, “Hey, there’s a naked woman looking for you” and he sprinted like Usain Bolt. Frankly, I get it.
And when Allen arrives, instant makeout session between him and this mystery blonde. In front of cops and criminals.
Man, mythical fish creatures are HOR-NEY.
Then, Allen takes her home and (REDACTED) her. I imagine it was as weird as when Fry hooked up with a mermaid.
Actually, it’s way more weird and unwholesome considering that Allen’s mermaid CAN’T TALK (MUCH LESS CONSENT).
Froemming: The whole time I just thought Allen has a peculiar fetish like Troy McClure.
Brown: You accused me of the same thing for picking this movie!
Froemming: Yeah, I think you are a pervert for picking this one.
So, while Allen goes back to work, our mermaid decides to go shopping dressed like her future self:
And because Allen has limitless funds due to his price gouging and blood money from the Mafia, she is able to buy all sorts of shit on his dime. I will let Brown discuss the troubling sales associate and her views on eating disorders.
Brown: Yeah, so Madison finds her way to Bloomingdale’s for a shopping spree. Look folks, it’s the ‘80s, and just because you’re a mythological woman/fish, you’re still a woman. So you LOVE to shop.
While looking at dresses, a sales associate comes over to Madison (who later gets the name because of a Madison Avenue sign) and tries to sell her a dress. On the way to trying on a dress, the associate makes a comment about how she can’t fit in the dress, but her daughter can.
The next line that comes out of her mouth: “My daughter, on the other hand, is lucky. She’s anorexic.”
Still shook from that line, Madison spends most of the day watching TV and (somehow) picking up English as a result. And a panicked Allen finds her at the store just before closing time. And now that she speaks English, he can actually get to know her and find all these high-flying red flags about this random woman he slept with hours ago. Like how her real name is a series of dolphin noises. There’s also a point where Madison takes a bath in salt water while Allen is asleep, only for hijinks to happen as her secret is almost discovered.
Frankly, all their interactions from this point are like an adult talking to a child, which is real (REDACTED) up when you remember that this is a sexual relationship.
Froemming: She has a timeline, which is six days. She has to return to wherever the hell she is from by the next full moon. Something that is never explained.
Meanwhile, while out on a boat screaming at his doofus team for reading the tabloids, Kornbluth sees a photo of Madison in the paper he was just denouncing. So, he knows the mermaid he saw is real and in New York!
So, he tosses aside his serious scientific research that we are never told what exactly that was, to chase a fish-woman in one of the largest populated cities in the world. Even his old professor thinks he is nuts. Not only is he batty, he screams all the time, so even if he did prove this, he would be written off as a crazy person.
I love Eugene Levy in this.
Meanwhile, Freddie lets Allen know that they are on the verge of a huge business deal (still probably Mob related) and they are invited to a dinner party featuring the president of the United States! And because Allen is struck with love and a sex life now, he doesn’t really seem to care. So, Freddie, the irresponsible one, is running their business.
Brown: What, you don’t trust a man who’s lighting up heaters and drinking beer from a cooler he brought to play racquetball?
Frankly, this is the point where I realized this movie needs more John Candy. Again, he steals every scene he’s in. Plus, Tom Hanks is (REDACTED) a mermaid here.
I really would like to know how a fruit stand owner gets an invite to a presidential dinner during the Reagan era.
Froemming: Jimmy Hoffa was let out of prison by Nixon, why would a union leader get such treatment? I think you and I both know why.
Brown: There’s substance to your mafia argument, but fruit stand owner is awfully low on the totem pole. Unless, Freddie is the don of this organization. And that’s not hard to believe considering how he dresses and the car he drives…
Froemming: Knowing this woman for only three days, Allen decides on throwing a hail mary to keep this woman in his life: He proposes to her in the most weird, roundabout way. Offering a green card marriage like Tom Haverford from “Parks and Rec.”
Shockingly, she says “no.” She has two great excuses for this. One, she needs to go back to Atlantis or whatever the hell her home is. And two, this was a lousy proposal.
And Allen throws a tantrum like he is a child now. Lots of childish adults in this blockbuster film from Ron Howard. Also, lots of technical beastiality going on as well.
Brown: Let’s not forget watching Madison trying to eat a lobster, shell and all. Homer Simpson would be intrigued by this when he envisions his life under the sea…
So yeah, Allen throws a hissy fit on an ice rink (which begs the question: if Madison can’t get wet, what happens if she falls on the ice).
After a night of moping for both of them (where Madison had to hide in a grime tunnel to avoid the rain), Madison accepts Allen’s horrible proposal. And she’ll reveal her secret to Allen at the presidential dinner.
… Why? Why not tell him beforehand? Why does it need to be during this grandiose event where Allen’s focus should be on expanding his
criminal empire fruit stand?
Froemming: Well, she is constantly trying to tell him, he just keeps cutting her off. Which does not bode well for any relationship to be successful. Communication is key.
As all this is going on, Kornbluth is running around the Big Apple soaking strangers with water because he mistakes them for Madison. I think he needs better glasses. Because these result in him getting his ass kicked and thrown down stairs and whatnot. He is a man possessed. To the point he sneaks into the presidential dinner like Sirhan Sirhan, only not gunning for a Kennedy but gunning for a fish-woman.
At the dinner, Madison wants to leave so she can tell Allen he has been banging half a fish these past few days. And the Secret Service see Kornbluth pulling what they think is a gun during this dinner, and escort him out.
Look, how does he not end up in prison under suspicion of attempting to shoot the president?
Brown: This movie is three years after Ronald Reagan was almost assassinated. You don’t think the Secret Service would be after your ass for anything resembling a gun, Kornbluth?
Well, as Allen and Madison leave the dinner party, Kornbluth is being apprehended. But, he has just enough of a window to grab his water hose and drenches Madison. And in front of a sizable press group, Madison’s tail emerges.
They don’t show the transformation happening. Part of me hopes it was as visually stunning as the transformation from “An American Werewolf in London.” You know, the fish version.
As the press is freaking out over this story (which yep, that would overshadow a black-tie dinner), Madison is whisked away by *checks notes* the government?
For as fun as “Splash” is, the attention to detail is not ideal in this flick.
Froemming: Allen and Madison are locked away in a *checks notes* basement of a museum? Sure. And Allen is in a giant tub of water, covering his twig and berries probably because of all the shrinkage going on. Then the government(?) throws Madison in the tank with him and he is freaked out by this whole scenario. It was all fun and games until the tail appeared.
Brown: Allen is blindfolded and released by the government. Outside his apartment, the press is there to swarm Allen, asking if he actually (REDACTED) a fish. They also ask a question about if Madison is hooking up with Burt Reynolds, which dates this movie substantially.
Freddie arrives to help his brother and tells the press that they’ll only talk to Penthouse. Way to stay on brand, buddy.
Allen is understandably shaken by this experience. I mean, he did (REDACTED) a fish and committed beastiality. But Freddie tells his brother to get his shit together and go rescue Madison because he’s never seen Allen so happy.
… So we’re going to ignore the whole fish (REDACTED) thing?
Froemming: Allen finds Kornbluth at the dentist office, where they engage in a tussle resulting in this poor bastard stabbing himself in the leg with a pain killer. Realizing he caused all this misery and the fact the government(?) is going to basically kill Madison to study her insides, he agrees to sneak Allen and Freddie into the museum’s basement.
And they do this by posing as Swedish scientists, and I got a chuckle when Freddie tells the guard who is half-Swede about his penis size. Because he learned some words by watching Swedish porn, something I had no idea existed.
Brown: Yeah… you can find anything for any sexual proclivity you have, Froemming.
… *changing the subject quickly*
The three find Madison, who’s looking in rather rough shape. She’s looking pale. Her tail looks like it’s coming apart. She’s not long for this world, to the point where, at the climax, jumping into the Hudson River seems like a better solution.
Allen and Kornbluth wrap Madison up in sheets and claim it was Freddie and that he got shot by the mermaid’s laser eyes?
OK, nevermind that there should be water dripping everywhere when they hold Madison up, I would hope a guard would think to himself “Hey, the guy they came in with was SUBSTANTIALLY bigger than this body they’re carrying.” But no, these guards are as competent as the ones in “Hogan’s Heroes” so now we get a chase.
Froemming: Before the chase, we see the government(?) go into the area Madison was being held and Freddie is there with a cigar and fishing pole. I love that he decided to bring props to a jailbreak. Where was he hiding that fishing pole? I have so many questions.
Anywho, the other three drive off on the mean streets of New York, where Allen suddenly knows what Henry Hill was going through at the end of “Goodfellas” with the helicopters chasing him around and all. Allen’s small car is able to sneak through the traffic a little better than the huge military trucks chasing them.
Then Kornbluth decides he will stop these huge military machines by…standing in front of them as Allen and Madison escape? And the military is just fine with running over American civilians? Sure, maybe technically Eugene Levy is Canadian, but still, that seems suspicious to me.
Brown: It was the ‘80s. It was easier to cover stuff up.
Everything reaches the climax as Allen and Madison reach the edge of the Hudson River and the New York Harbor. They say their goodbyes before Madison drops the info that Allen can survive in the water as long as he’s with Madison. But, he can never return to land. That’s a far-fetched idea to digest when the military is breathing down your neck so Madison jumps into the water, assuming she’ll never be with Allen again.
It’s here she also admits that she was the mermaid from Allen’s childhood.
As the troops close in, Allen decides to jump into the water to join Madison in the Hudson, probably picking up hepatitis along the way.
This is for you, Allen!
Froemming: Kramer swims in the Hudson River and he was fine.
Yeah, Allen gives up his mobbed-up fruit empire to live in the ocean with his fish-woman, which sounds creepy now I typed that out. What a weird ending to this movie. Will Allen become part fish now? What will happen to Freddie, now his brother isn’t around to help him out with his gambling debts? This movie raises more questions than it answers.
Brown, let’s swim on down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Yes. It’s a problematic ‘80s movie, but it’s a fun watch. I mean, it’s baby Tom Hanks and in-his-prime John Candy!
Froemming: Sure, for Candy’s performance alone it is worth a watch.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: