For Tweens Only
To begin with, I am not the audience for this film. I am a middle-aged man with a wife and two kids. This film is targeted at "tweens," kids between 9 and 12 en route to being teenagers, and, more specifically, girls. Some of the concerns affecting tweens are: "How do I fit in?" "I really like this guy, but he doesn't know I'm alive," "When is my body going to fill out?" and so forth. Current role models and dream dates are Alexis Bledel from The Gilmore Girls, Ashlee (Jessica's younger sister) Simpson of 7th Heaven, and Chad Michael Murray of One Tree Hill. So this is a limited universe that this film is dealing with, and one exclusively inhabited by middle-class white people.
That being said, Aquamarine is based on a book by acclaimed author Alice Hoffman, who also wrote Practical Magic and Here on Earth, both of which have been made into movies. This story focuses on best friends Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (Joanna "JoJo" Levesque) who discover a beautiful mermaid (Sara Paxton) named Aquamarine, who washes into Claire's grandparents' Florida beach club pool during a storm. Aquamarine fled her home to avoid an arranged marriage, and if she can prove to her father that love is not a myth, he will call off the wedding. But she only has three days to do it!
Aqua asks Claire and Hailey to help her, and immediately sets her sights on the club's dreamy lifeguard, Raymond (Jake McDorman). Aqua promises to grant each girl a wish if she succeeds, so the girls are thrilled because they want Hailey to be able to remain in town, instead of moving away, as planned at the summer's end, with her marine biologist mother. The girls turn Aquamarine on to their teen magazines to pick up human flirting tips, in order to attract the hunky Raymond and vanquish her primary rival, the shallow and calculating Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel).
While the movie is as light as cotton candy, first-time director Elizabeth Allen is savvy enough to keeps things moving briskly and make reference to an earlier mermaid film, Splash; however, this film pales in comparison. Still, it has an appealing cast, especially Sara Paxton in the title role. She lights up the screen with her nutty charm. Peppered with goofy jokes (e.g., Aqua's "shell" phone) and a slew of perky pop songs, the movie has an upbeat, energetic innocence that's as inescapable as the countless opportunities the girls find to clasp hands and jump up and down together screeching in excitement. If that's your idea of a good time, you won't want to miss this, but you may prefer dropping the girls off at the multiplex and catching something more substantial for yourself. The film is rated PG.
- Philip Murphy
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