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This came out in 1984. I feel like I must have seen it sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, either on TV or VHS, but I didn't really remember anything about it. I finally watched it on DVD in 2018, and it left me uncertain as to whether or not I had seen it before. But it doesn't matter. I suppose it was reasonably entertaining, but I'm afraid I didn't like it quite as much as I might have hoped.
Anyway, it begins with a family vacationing at Cape Cod in 1964. They're on a tourist boat or whatever. One little boy is pretending to drop pocket change as an excuse to look up women's dresses. His younger brother sees a girl in the water, and jumps in to just hang out with her, I guess. I dunno. But no one else on the boat sees the girl, and have no idea why he jumped in the water, and they're all upset, and "rescue" him. But the boy and the girl are sad to be separated.
Flash forward to the present, and the boy who saw the girl is now a man, Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks), who runs a fruit and vegetable wholesaling business in New York City. His girlfriend breaks up with him. And he doesn't think he'll ever find love. Meanwhile, his brother, Freddie (John Candy), spends most of his time just womanizing and generally having fun and being irresponsible, but he finally decides to start helping out with the family business. And he tries to cheer Allen up. But Allen decides to go to Cape Cod, to be alone or whatever. He long ago came to believe the incident with the girl in the water was just his imagination, but he still feels a strong to connection to that place. Anyway, he runs into a scientist named Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy), who thinks Allen is a spy. He's doing secret research with a couple of hired locals who aren't very bright. I guess Kornbluth is looking for mermaids. And... Allen hires another guy to ferry him to the other side of the... water.... And ends up falling in and being rescued by a mermaid (Daryl Hannah). But he doesn't realize she's a mermaid. He also certainly doesn't realize she's the same girl he met twenty years ago, but she remembers him.
Allen later returns home, and the mermaid comes looking for him, having found his wallet when she rescued him. She has legs when on land, of course. And... she obviously knows nothing about the human world, and can't even speak any human language. But she picks things up very quickly, mostly from watching TV. And she chooses the name Madison for herself. (Apparently this movie inspired a lot of people to name their daughters Madison.) She and Allen have a very intense relationship, despite their obvious differences. And... eventually Kornbluth shows up and tries to prove to the world that Madison is a mermaid.
That's all I want to say about the plot. Anyway, it was okay. I'm glad to have seen it, but I'm not sure if I'll ever feel any great interest in seeing it again.