2006 - PG - 104 Mins.
|Director: Elizabeth Allen
|Producer: Susan Cartsonis
|Written By: John Quaintance and Jessica Bendinger
|Starring: Emma Roberts, Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque, Sara Paxton, Jake McDorman and Arielle Kebbel
|Review by: Bill King
|Official Site: www.aquamarinemovie.com/
'Aquamarine' is a charming mermaid movie, with appealing performances by its young cast and a message of friendship that isn't delivered with a sickening spoonful of dripping syrup. It is so intensely likable that any objections over its derivative plot are simply minor annoyances. This is a good movie, with no intention of being cynical or condescending in any way. It is what it is, a goofy mermaid movie with lots of heart and humor flowing from the screen like a gentle wave.
This is how you give a high-five
Though it's not a great family movie, it is definitely enjoyable for all ages. Children and young teens will get out of it a positive message about friendship, while adults can easily soak up the story without falling into a daydreaming stupor. Jessica Bendinger, who can do no wrong when it comes to fun and cheery movies like this (at least so far), wrote the script. She shows here, like she did with 'Bring it On' and 'Stick It,' an ability to get the most out of a story that is otherwise confined to the strictest of guidelines.
Hailey (Joanna Levesque) has just settled down and befriended Claire (Emma Roberts), when her mother gets a job offer in Australia, forcing her to pack her bags once again and move. This has become a routine aspect of her life; just as she meets a friend, she has to leave. When the day of the departure looms near, a huge storm hits their seaside town in Florida and deposits a mermaid into Claire's swimming pool. The mermaid, named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), wandered away from home in a quest to find true love.
After getting used to the idea of an actual mermaid, Hailey and Claire agree to help Aquamarine, as doing so will grant them one wish, which they will use to keep Hailey from moving away. Aquamarine has her eye on Raymond (Jake McDorman), who is currently unavailable thanks to the snobby Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel). This poses a problem as Hailey has a crush on Raymond, but now she has to help get him and Aquamarine together.
'Aquamarine' takes themes from other movies and incorporates them into its own story, but the result doesn't betray its sources by inserting them into a lackluster narrative. This is breezy entertainment, with effective nods in the direction of 'Cinderella' and 'Splash.' Aquamarine has to leave her Prince Charming every night or else her secret will be revealed. When dry, she has legs, but at night she automatically reverts to full mermaid mode, fins and all. As such, she retreats to an area water tower to wait out the night before Hailey and Claire pick her up in the morning. It's an awkward arrangement because Raymond beings to fall for Aquamarine, who then finds it difficult to leave him when the sun is about to set.
The three actresses in the lead roles project a quirky charm and refreshing youthfulness. First, they fit the ages of their characters perfectly; and second, the story doesn't require them to act too grown up. They're teenagers and they behave like it. They don't give us any "Dawson's Creek"-style wisdom by bombarding us with unbelievable life lessons.
The story is entirely fantastical, with its mermaid character (Paxton) and inevitable jealous drama queen (Kebbel). Still, the characters seem entirely genuine, thanks to the excellent casting. I've only seen Kebbel before (one of the few good things about 'American Pie Presents Band Camp'), but the other actresses are new to me. They bring a lot of wide-eyed wonder to the script. The entire effort is really comprised of people (cast and crew alike) who understood the genre requirements, but were willing to work around those obstacles to find a fresh approach. In doing so, they came out with a real surprise. 'Aquamarine' is just a whole lot of fun.