Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

US movie (1984). Touchstone/Buena Vista. Pr Brian Grazer. Exec pr John Thomas Lenox. Dir Ron Howard. Vfx Mitch Suskin. Screenplay Lowell Ganz, Bruce Jay Friedman, Babaloo Mandel. Starring John Candy (Freddie), Tom Hanks (Alan), Daryl Hannah (Madison), Eugene Levy (Dr Walter Kornbluth). 110 mins. Colour.

Successful New York fruit wholesaler Alan recalls a childhood encounter with a Mermaid off Cape Cod, so travels there and indeed meets a mermaid. She tracks him to New York; their love is immediate and very physical (she is finned in water but legged on land). There are confusions as her naïveté confronts the City; she takes the name Madison from the avenue. Captured by obsessive marine zoologist Kornbluth, she is subjected to scientific study. Boorishly rejected by Alan, she physically deteriorates; it is Kornbluth who takes pity on her and, aided by Alan – who has seen the light – and Alan's rakehell brother Freddie, frees her. Alan opts for a life as a merman in The Mer-City with her rather than human life without.

Part-screwball, part-romantic Sex comedy, S! packs a reasonably erotic punch, yet with sufficient innocence to gain a PG rating. Certainly it was a departure for Disney, whose first movie under their new Touchstone byline this was. Miranda (1947) and its sequel Mad About Men (1954) have been claimed as S!'s forebears; later, parallels were to be drawn between S! and Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989) – the initial encounter between man and mermaid has some similarities. S! was sequelled by the less ambitious Splash, Too (1988 tvm), with different leading actors and director. Madison and Alan, now dwelling in the mer-city, have adventures after she dashes off to help a dolphin. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.