The fact that I showed up at the Beaucatcher Cinema to review Aquamarine seemed to cause the staff some amusement and even disbelief. I should explain, however, that a friend of mine wanted to see it. He apparently has a more romantic notion of mermaids than those that adorn some cans of tuna (I confess my level of interest to be at the latter level, and though said friend doesn’t realize it, I’m arleady just looking for this year’s Pootie Tang for his viewing pleasure by way of recompense.) Since it was inescapable that I see the film, reviewing it seemed reasonable.
The more I’ve thought about it, the less sure I am of how reasonable that was. My notions that I might find the movie’s Tampa Bay, Fla., setting interesting, since I spent years in that part of the world, were quickly dashed when I realized that Tampa was being played by Australia. Oh, well.
It’s not that Aquamarine is all that bad; on a sliding scale, I’d rate it above Ultraviolet and 16 Blocks. However, I could say the same of Plan Nine From Outer Space and only be exaggerating slightly.
It’s not mean-spirited. It’s never cruel. It’s just so … innocuous. I can’t help but wonder if this sort of thing really appeals to 13-year-old girls, or if the people who made it just think that it should. (Judging by the pair of obvious studio-planted “reviews” written in bad imitation of “tween speak” on the Internet Movie Database, the studio is determined to convince the target audience that they love this movie whether they do or not.) I kept getting the sense of an Afternoon Special that had blundered into a theater by accident on its way to a TV set.
The story is predictable in the extreme. Bestest buddies Claire (Emma Roberts, niece of Julia) and Hailey (Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, who is apparently a pop star as simply “JoJo”) are on the verge of being split up because Hailey’s mom is moving them to Australia (peculiar, since in reality, they’re already there). Hope arrives when a mermaid named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton, Sleepover) winds up in the swimming pool at Claire’s grandparents’ beach club.
Seems that Aquamarine had a fight with her dad over an arranged marriage with a merman she claims is “about as deep as a tide pool” (never mind that this seems a very pot-and-kettle remark), and she has three days to prove the existence of love. If the girls can help her do that, she won’t have to marry the shallow mergentleman, and she will grant them a wish — which, of course, is that Hailey won’t have to move to Australia.
To this end, they proceed to fix her up with the hunky lifeguard, Raymond (Jake McDorman, who sandwiched this in between a religious four-waller and the straight-to-video sequel to Bring It On), for whom they both have a yen. (There’s murky subtext here, but I doubt the film knows it.) Will it all work out? Will life-lessons be learned? Are there mermaids on tuna cans?
This said, first-time feature-helmer Elizabeth Allen provides some interesting directorial flourishes (the opening is particularly good), but they’re largely submerged in a story line that ultimately makes little sense — the premise doesn’t distinguish between platonic and romantic love. That’s a concept that might be interesting to explore in another film, but it makes nonsense of its own premise about the father-daughter relationship between Aquamarine and her soggy dad. Rated PG for mild language and sensuality.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke