Aquamarine review by Mike Long

My wife recently watched The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. While I didn't see the entire film, what I did see was notably humorless. I said, "That movie was way too serious -- especially for something about teenaged girls." My wife replied, "All chick lit is too serious." I'm sure that her statement is too broad and there are clearly exceptions to every rule. Take the recently released Aquamarine for example. This film is based on a novel and is aimed at a younger female audience. And while the movie tackles issues which are very important to that demographic, it does so with a nice sense of whimsy.

Summer is coming to a close for best friends Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (JoJo) as Aquamarine opens. They have been friends for years, but Hailey will be moving half-way around the world in a few weeks (as her mother has gotten a new job). The girls spend most of their time at the beach club which Claire's grandparents operate, and much of that time is taken up by ogling lifeguard, Raymond (Jake McDorman) and avoiding local snob, Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel). One night, a terrible storm hits the beach club. The next morning, Claire and Hailey find that a mermaid named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton) has washed into the pool. Much to their surprise, Aquamarine can speak English and she acts like a teenaged for her tail.

Aquamarine has fled from the ocean, as she's attempting to avoid a marriage which as been pre-arranged by her father. Her father has told her that true love doesn't exist, and the young mermaid wants to know if this is true. She tells Claire and Hailey that anyone who aids a mermaid will be granted one wish -- thus, if the girls can help Aquamarine learn about true love, she will give them anything they desire. The girls see this as a chance for Hailey to stay. So, they set out to introduce a true fish out of water to the world of teenage romance.

To me, one of the definitions of a professional is someone who knows the limits of their abilities. In other words, when you are in a situation where one isn't qualified to perform a task, or simply doesn't know what they are doing, they need to admit as such and do the right thing. So, I'm here to say that I don't know if I'm qualified to review Aquamarine, for this movie is squarely aimed at females somewhere between the ages of 8-18...and I don't fall into that demographic. But, since there's no one else here to do the job, I'll give it my best shot.

Clearly, Aquamarine sounds a lot like Splash, but there are some major differences. The most obvious one is the behavior of the mermaid herself. Unlike Splash's Madison, who knew little of the world of dry land, Aquamarine can speak English and is somewhat familiar with the behavior of humans, as she's often watched them. Also, Aquamarine's behavior mirrors that of human teenaged girl, as she takes great pride in her appearance. When she gets the chance to wear clothes, she revels in the experience.

The inclusion of a mermaid, helps Aquamarine puts a fantasy spin on many familiar plotlines. We've seen the "best friend is moving away scenario" before, but the idea that a mermaid's magical powers could stop this from happening is interesting. Also, Aquamarine gets between Claire & Hailey and the mean-spirited Cecilia.

As an adult, I did have some problems with the film. The story is very predictable, and at times, quite monotonous, as the girls strive to keep others from discovering Aquamarine's true nature. At 103 minutes, the movie is too long and there are several scenes which could have been shorn to tighten up the film's pace. I also had a problem with the way in which Claire and Hailey fawn over Raymond. At the film's outset, they act as if they want to go out with him, but half-way through the movie, they (apparently) admit that he's too old for them. I'm not saying that it's uncommon for young girls to swoon over hunky teenaged boys, but the film has a somewhat creepy vibe when it seems that the girls are willing to offer themselves up to a boy who is a few years older than them.

As I'm still stymied by the estrogen level of this film, I will fall back on the reactions of my young daughters -- they loved Aquamarine and for several days after watching it, all that they played was mermaid. I can say that the movie does offer an interesting twist on stories like Splash and The Little Mermaid, but it's also quite pedestrian at time. The one thing that I'm certain of is that I applaud the scene involving the starfish earrings...oh and that I didn't understand most of the movie.

Aquamarine swims onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the movie. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, as the picture shows practically no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors in the film are particular good, as the film uses many bright tones and pastels. I did notice some haloes around the actors in some scenes, but otherwise the picture is stable. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As with many family films, the audio effects are somewhat dampened (so to speak), but there were some noticeable surround sound and stereo effects to enhance the film, as well as a couple of subwoofer rumbles during the storm.

The DVD contains several extra features. An Audio Commentary is provided by director Elizabeth Allen and producer Susan Cartsons. This is an interesting chat as they know that younger viewers may be listening, so they tailor the talk for that crowd. They describe filmmaking in very basic and general terms, but they do a fine job of painting a picture of what it's like to be on-set. They talk about the unique challenges presented by shooting the film in Australia and by having a cast which could only work so many hours in a day. Actors Emma Roberts, JoJo, and Sara Paxton provide a giggle-strewn Scene Specific Commentary for 7 selected scenes. The DVD contains 6 Deleted Scenes (with no PLAY ALL feature!) which are essentially throw-away material. The 5-minute "Awesome Auditions" shows auditions from the film's lead actors, including an impressive look at Sara Paxton crying on cue. Production Designer Nelson Coates takes us through "Building the Capri Club" (3 minutes). We get a look at the special effects of Aquamarine's tail in "Mermaid Makeover" (3 minutes). In "It's All About the Fashion", costume designer Sally Sharpe talks about the clothes in the movie. The extras are finished off by "Aqua's Squeals", which is a 1-minute montage of Paxton making odd noises and a gag reel called "Kickin' It on Set" (5 minutes).

4 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus