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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1984 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 105:20 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Ron Howard

Warner Home Video
Starring Tom Hanks
Darryl Hannah 
Eugene Levy 
John Candy
Case Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Lee Holdridge

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits
Yes, in credits

Plot Synopsis

    Even before they collaborated on Parenthood, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel came up with this little romp of a film, that whilst showing its age a little is still an enjoyable view.

    As a young child, Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) throws himself off a cruise ship off Cape Cod, only to be saved from drowning by a mysterious young mermaid. Jump forward twenty years and the same Allen Bauer is running a produce company in New York, with the dubious assistance of brother Freddie (John Candy), and wondering whether he will ever find the right woman (I know how he feels). After another traumatic break up and a night of bingeing with his brother, Allen grabs a cab and heads off to Cape Cod to recuperate. Dropped on the wrong side of the shore, he gets a local to ferry him across the bay in a small boat. Allen cannot swim so when he falls overboard he is in serious trouble until rescued once again by a mysterious, beautiful mermaid, later to be called Madison (Darryl Hannah). Allen falls in love with Madison but returns to New York without her, until Madison turns up at the Statue of Liberty stark naked, with only Allen's wallet on her. Cue the usual boy meets girl, boy likes girl stuff here. A subplot is geeky scientist Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy) chasing down this elusive mermaid, finally catching her then helping to release her when the conscience kicks in. Being Di$ney of course we have the obligatory happy ending all round.

    The screenplay was obviously a good one as it copped an Oscar nomination in 1985, whilst the film itself was nominated for a Golden Globe in the same year for Best Film - Comedy/Musical. Whilst it is a little difficult to comprehend now, in the light of having watched it about thirty times, this was a very fresh, original film back in 1984. Tom Hanks was just starting to show some serious acting ability and in some respects this was something of a break out film for him. Darryl Hannah was stunningly, naively provocative as the mermaid, but the real star here for me was the late, great John Candy as the brother. The whole show was brought together well by Ron Howard, and this really is a nice, enjoyable film.

Transfer Quality


    Okay, it is not 16x9 enhanced and it is fifteen years old, but this turns out to be a not too bad a transfer at all.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

    The age of the film is highlighted somewhat by the rather soft definition in the transfer: this is not a sharp transfer at all in general, although at times it is still very good indeed. The main concern is that it is not in general a clear transfer, which compounds a general lack of depth in the transfer. Nothing to really be seriously concerned about mind, and probably as good as we can expect from a fifteen year old film. Shadow detail is not exactly stunning, but only occasionally do you wish it were a lot better than it is. The picture is a little grainy, reflecting both the lack of 16x9 enhancement and the age of the film.

    The colours are nicely rendered, with a nice rich tone indicative of some nice saturation. The film starts a little on the dark side but then seems to get a little brighter. This is not a vibrant transfer at all. There does not appear to be any serious problems with oversaturation in the transfer, despite a couple of instances where it threatened to become a problem.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, and film-to-video artefacts were restricted to some quite minor aliasing. This was far better than I was expecting for a non-16x9 enhanced transfer, given the abundance of the usual culprits in the transfer (such as venetian blinds). There were plenty of film artefacts throughout the film, but in general these were not especially distracting to the film.


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD, all Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded efforts - English, French and Italian. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The score comes from Lee Holdridge and is not an especially memorable effort, although it set the mood for the film quite well.

    This is not an especially detailed soundtrack, with minimal use made of the surround channels. The film is of course very much dialogue driven so the lack of surround presence is not especially missed. The resultant overall sound picture is reasonably believable however.

    No use at all is made of the bass channel.




R4 vs R1

    It would appear that the Region 1 and Region 4 releases are identical, therefore Region 4 is the slightly favoured version owing to the inherent superiority of the PAL system.


    An enjoyable enough film from the early part of Ron Howard's directorial career, but the lack of 16x9 enhancement is most inexcusable and unacceptable. Whilst there is nothing too much to really complain about here, the whole package just gives the impression of a lack of care being taken with the release. If you have the VHS tape, I would not rush out to replace it just yet - give it a rental first to see if the cost is justified.

    The video transfer is pretty good.

    The audio transfer is barely better than average.


Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
31st December 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL