Cast: Sara Paxton, Emma Roberts, JoJo, Jake McDorman, Arielle Kebbel, Tammin Sursok, Dichen Lachman, Julia Blake, Roy Billing, Claudia Karvan
Director: Elizabeth Allen
St. John's University '07
"If you always do what interests you at least one person is pleased." -Katharine Hepburn
Review By: Andrea Tuccillo
Aquamarine is like the bubbly, pastel-colored version of Splash for the tween girl set. But, you know, not nearly as good. The "fish out of water"Â concept was a lot more fun to watch when Daryl Hannah was meeting up with Tom Hanks in New York City and learning to speak English at Bloomingdale's.
For now we will have to settle with this version of the mermaid romantic comedy. It begins with Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (pop singer Joanna "JoJo"Â Levesque), two best friends living on a beach club in Florida. They spend time doing what 13-year-old girls do best: reading teen magazines and gushing over the hunky lifeguard, Raymond (Jake McDorman).
Claire is the shy, reserved one with deep-seeded water issues. Hailey is the spunky tomboy afraid to show her inner beauty. At the end of the summer, much to the girls' dismay, all of their gal-pal bonding will end when Hailey and her marine biologist mother move to Australia. Gee, it's a good thing a mermaid named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton) landed in their swimming pool one night after a storm and offered to grant them one wish if they help her find true love. Wait, huh? Mermaids grant wishes? It sounds kind of like an A Little Mermaid and Aladdin combo to me.
There is a lot about Aquamarine (the movie and the mermaid) that is just a little too hard to swallow. Once the mermaid swims into the picture, the movie seems to be making up things as it goes along. So just to be clear"”mermaids can speak every language, they sprout legs out of water as long as it is daylight, their nails change color with their mood, and when they are on land they can communicate to their mermaid family by using a "shell"Â phone. All of this wacky information gets thrown at Claire and Hailey, as well as the audience, with dizzying speed.
But the mermaid aspect is not meant to be the focal point of the film. Rather it just acts a plot twist meant to make this teen comedy different from all the rest. Alas, sparkly blue fins do not have the power to cover up the formulaic storyline of Aquamarine.
Some aspects do uniquely stand out, however. Cute-as-a-button Emma Roberts (Julia's niece, by the way) is the bright spot in this murky film. She is perfect as Claire, the emotionally damaged orphan being raised by her grandparents. Claire is fragile and timid on the outside, but she is also deeply hurt and held back by fear. Her parents drowned and she hasn't been able to get into the water since. One of the most touching scenes is when Aquamarine reveals a special connection to Claire's parents. Claire has the most to overcome by the end of the film and I felt the most connected to her. Roberts brings a realness
If Roberts brings the realness, then Sara Paxton brings the fakeness as the wide-eyed magical mermaid. And it's not just because mermaids are pure fantasy. With long blonde hair streaked an ice-blue to match her eyes, Paxton treads in shallow waters when playing Aquamarine, barely suggesting that there is anything more than air bubbles in her pretty little head. She's perky, she's bubbly, and she's clueless to the ways of love. She also positively wore on my nerves.
But she is not nearly as annoying as the stereotypical snob, Cecelia (Arielle Kebbel), who flails and screeches her way through the film. Her over-the-top mean-girl antics make you want to take a dive off the deep end.
The special features are well-put-together and varied. Some highlights include "Awesome Auditions"Â which shows snip-its from the main casts' audition tapes and "Kickin' It On Set,"Â a collection of gag moments from the movie. But the most fun feature is the scene-specific cast commentary with Roberts, Levesque, and Paxton giving their giggly perspectives into what the scenes meant to them. Paxton in particular talks about the lengthy process that was necessary to complete her scaly transformation. It is rare that young actors get to share their experiences in a commentary and it was a nice little glimpse behind the scenes.
Despite the movie's sappy sweetness and girly cuteness, it does provide young girls with valuable insights into the importance of friendship and love. It shows that life doesn't always turn out the way you planned, and sometimes that's okay. It may not be exactly what you wished for, but it is what was meant to be.
Too bad Aquamarine will fail to make a splash with anyone other than pre-teen girls.
Movie Grade: C+
DVD Grade: B
Overall Grade: B-
Two twelve year old girls are in love with a dilapidated beach club near their home. After a huge storm, they discover Aquamarine, a mermaid, in the pool of the club. Aquamarine then falls in love with the cute, young boy who runs the food bar and begs the girls to help her set up a date with him.