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BUENA VISTA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ron Howard
Cast:
Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dody Goodman, Shecky Greene, Richard B. Shull, Bobby Di Cicco, Howard Morris, Tony DiBenedetto
Writing Credits:
Brian Grazer, Bruce Jay Friedman, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Tagline:
She Was The Woman Of His Dreams - She Had Large Dark Eyes, A Beautiful Smile And A Great Pair Of Fins.

Synopsis:
Don't let this spectacular 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition be the one that got away! Academy Award winner Tom Hanks' stars as Allen Bauer, a workaholic who's convinced he can't fall in love. That is, until he's mysteriously rescued at sea by the mermaid of his dreams! Soon Allen and Madison (Daryl Hannah, Kill Bill) are swept away by hilarious and heartwarming romance. Academy Award winner Ron Howard directs a star studded cast, including Eugene Levy (Bringing Down the House, American Pie) and hilarious John Candy (Home Alone) in a magical tale that now includes all-new bonus features.

Box Office:
Budget
$8 million.
Domestic Gross
$62.100 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/23/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Ron Howard, Producer Brian Grazer, and Writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel
• “Making a Splash”
• Audition Tapes
• Sneak Peeks


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

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Splash: 20th Anniversary Edition (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 18, 2004)

Ron Howard turned 50 the other day, a freaky concept for those of us who still think of him as Opie Taylor and/or Richie Cunningham. As time passes, I suppose fewer people will recall Howard as an actor. Over the years, he’s become much better known as a director. Syndication will always keep him in the public eye as a performer, but his work behind the camera now stands as his bread and butter.

With 1984’s Splash, we go back to a day when Howard still had to prove his chops as a director. His third effort in that regard, Splash became Howard’s first real hit. 1977’s Grand Theft Auto was little more than a cheap quickie that remains best known as a footnote on Howard’s career. 1982’s Night Shift did better but didn’t quite establish Howard as a real filmmaking force.

Splash pushed Howard much farther into that territory. Made on the cheap, it did quite well at the box office. Indeed, it also gave Tom Hanks a nice nudge toward his eventual status as a star. Not bad for an unassuming little romantic comedy.

Splash opens with a prologue set in 1964. On a boat in Cape Cod, young Allen Bauer (David Kreps) displays a fascination with the sea. On a ferry, he jumps overboard and briefly spends time with a preteen mermaid.

Back in then-present day, adult Allen (Hanks) runs a produce supply business with his irresponsible brother Freddie (John Candy). Allen’s girlfriend Victoria leaves him because he can’t express love, and he starts to question whether he’s capable of that emotion.

In a moment of serious soul-searching, Allen treks to Cape Cod to soothe his mind. When he gets there, he strolls the beach and meets a scientist, Dr. Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy). He asks for a lift across the island, but Kornbluth acts shifty and tries to evade the issue for he thinks Allen’s there to spy on his research.

Allen gets a ride from Fat Jack (Al Chesney), but the motor conks out and Jack swims back to get another boat. Allen tries to restart it and falls in the drink, which causes problems since he doesn’t know how to swim. In addition, the motor starts up again, and when the boat spins around, it bonks him in the head.

Allen sinks but gets rescued by an unseen source. He winds up back on the beach, where he meets a beautiful naked woman (Daryl Hannah) when he awakes. She says nothing but kisses him before she heads into the sea, much to Allan’s dismay.

Back in the ocean, we see that she’s a mermaid, and she finds Allen’s wallet, which he lost in the accident. Kornbluth also has an encounter with her, but he drops his camera and doesn’t get a chance to document it.

With wallet in tow, the mermaid decides to track down Allen, and she arrives on Ellis Island. Not surprisingly, the naked babe causes a stir, and the police eventually take her into custody. Since she has Allen’s wallet, they contact him, and he comes to get her. The pair get to know each other, and eventually she learns how to talk.

When that happens, she chooses the name Madison and also indicates that she can only stay in Manhattan for six days; once the moon turns full, she must return from whence she came or she’ll be stuck forever. Allen doesn’t know what this means, though we soon get the message: when Madison takes a bath, her true form unfurls and she turns back into a mermaid.

The rest of Splash follows their romance and the various complications. Not only do they have to deal with Madison’s mermaid status and those issues, but also they must worry about Kornbluth. He tracks Madison to Manhattan and wants to discover her for his own gain.

Splash pretty much defines the word “unassuming”. It presents a gentle little fable that always remains charming, though it falls short of becoming tremendously memorable. The slightness of the plot harms it to a certain degree. There’s simply not much to the story, and it seems a little long at 110 minutes. That stretches the situations to a point where they start to peter out after a while.

The characters also fail to develop much dimensionality. Hanks displays a prototypical version of his traditional sensitive nice guy with a wise-cracking edge. He doesn’t display the level of shtick seen in his much broader fellow flick from 1984, Bachelor Party, but he brings his standard wit to the role. Hanks does balance the part with warmth and charm, though, and one can see why he so easily endeared himself to the audience. There’s not much to the role, but Hanks fleshes it out nicely.

Hannah sure looks the part of the mermaid, and she brings a fine sense of innocence and naïveté to Madison. Actually, she pours it on slightly thick at times and seems slightly artificial, but who am I to say? She plays a mermaid – who knows what that kind of personality would be like? Hannah seems sweet and cute and pulls off the ingenuousness needed.

For a big SCTV fan like myself, it’s great to see Levy and Candy in the same flick, although they spend very little time onscreen together. As with the lead roles, they don’t get much development, as they fall into more one-dimensional comedic bits, but they seem quite lively and professional at all times. Candy does self-plagiarize considerably, though, as Freddie is little more than a variation on his old SCTV Johnny LaRue character. Heck, one line – “heart’s beating like a rabbit”, when he gets tired during a racquetball game – directly comes from a sketch on the first-ever episode of SCTV!

The third act of Splash seems like the weakest. We see the development of a government plot that feels lifted almost directly from ET the Extra-Terrestrial. I don’t quibble with the execution of the scenes, but they simply come across as unnecessary. The movie’s focus should remain on the romance. Enough natural obstacles existed; why do we need an external threat to come into play? These sequences feel like padding and could be lost without harm.

Still, even with those slow moments, Splash remains likable. It presents gentle humor and sweet performances. Nothing about the movie comes across as stunning or tremendously impressive, but enough of the flick entertains to make it a fun experience.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Splash appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not without some minor issues, the movie mostly presented a strong picture.

Sharpness almost always looked great. Occasionally, I thought some wide shots demonstrated slight softness, but not much. The majority of the flick appeared crisp and detailed. No concerns connected to jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but I did notice some light, persistent edge enhancement throughout the flick. Print flaws seemed modest. A few instances of specks and grit popped up, but these appeared quite minor for a 20-year-old flick.

Although many Eighties films display murky colors, the hues of Splash were terrific. The movie employed a warm, lush palette that came across as dynamic and vibrant. The tones consistently seemed lively and vivid. Black levels also were deep and firm, and shadows usually seemed solid. A few low-light sequences displayed a bit of muddiness, but those elements remained minor, as the image mainly seemed well-defined. Ultimately, I felt quite impressed with the strong visuals of Splash.

While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack didn’t seem as impressive, it worked fine for an older movie. Unsurprisingly, the soundfield demonstrated a pretty heavy bias toward the forward channels. Most of the mix featured general ambience. Music offered decent stereo spread, and environmental effects popped up in the appropriate locations. The elements sometimes failed to pan smoothly, though, as pieces periodically moved somewhat awkwardly. Dialogue seemed a little vaguely placed at times, though, as speech occasionally bled slightly to the sides. The surrounds played a minor role in the proceedings. They reinforced the forward domain and occasionally became a little more active, but not by much. It’s a fairly typical mix for a romantic comedy.

The quality of the audio seemed fine for a flick from the Eighties. Speech was a little thin but sounded distinctive and crisp, with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were acceptably accurate but also without great heft. Some decent low-end appeared but since the elements were such minor players, nothing presented much of an impact. Music seemed somewhat bland but also reasonably clear and concise. Don’t expect much from this lackluster track, but it still worked well for its age and genre.

On this new special edition of Splash, we get a few supplements. These open with an audio commentary from director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific chat.

The commentary opens with a video introduction from the quartet. In that three-minute and 29-second clip, they provide a few general personal thoughts about the film. After that we launch into their discussion. This seems like a pretty democratic affair, as all four provide reasonably equal amounts of material. We learn about a mix of issues like casting, difficulties finding an interested studio, the origins of the story, script writing concerns, logistics of shooting in Manhattan, and many other topics. Mandel and Ganz work particularly hard to toss odd wisecracks to keep things moving, and they succeed.

Note that the first half of the commentary seems decidedly superior to the subsequent half. Around the midway mark of the movie, it really starts to peter out substantially. Lulls occurred sporadically before that time, but they become more significant and lengthy after it. The quality of the content also suffers, as we get more happy talk and bland general notes during the second half. Still, the piece as a whole seems pretty decent. It’s not a great commentary, but it seems generally fun and informative.

(By the way, a remark from Howard lets us discern when they recorded the track. He mentions an Oscar nomination that A Beautiful Mind recently received, so it seems likely they taped this piece between mid-February and late March 2002.)

For a general look at the movie, we move to Making a Splash. In this 24-minute and eight-second documentary, we find the usual mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes shots, and new interviews. We hear from Howard, Grazer, Mandel, Ganz, and actors Eugene Levy, Daryl Hannah, and Tom Hanks. We also get an archival snippet from John Candy. They cover the story’s difficult path to the screen, competition from another planned mermaid movie, working at Disney, casting, the first read-through and anecdotes from the shoot, the atmosphere on the set, swimming and mermaid logistics, a deleted scene, and the film’s reception. The piece seems surprisingly tight and focused. We get little fluff and learn a lot of good facts about the flick. It’s an informative and enjoyable little show that even includes a snippet from Hanks’ appearance on Happy Days.

When we look in the Audition Tapes category, we launch with a quick introduction from Ron Howard. He discusses their creation and what happened to them over the years. Then we can watch the auditions for Tom Hanks (16 minutes, 16 seconds) and Daryl Hannah (7:29). Howard runs the lines for the other characters as he interacts with the auditioning actors. Both do pretty terrific jobs, as they present personalities that already seem well developed. This is a very fun and cool extra.

The DVD opens with a mix of ads. We find promos for Hope Springs, and Calendar Girls. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks domain.

Splash doesn’t come across as a classic, but it offers a modestly enjoyable piece of work. The movie presents charm and sweetness that makes it a nice way to pass time and seems like a pretty good date flick. The DVD offers surprisingly solid picture with perfectly adequate audio and a small but strong package of extras. Splash gives us a cute program that doesn’t dazzle but entertains well.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1764 Stars Number of Votes: 17
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