March 9, 2006


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Aquamarine (PG)
reviewed by Amy Diaz

Girls learn about friendship, courage and the power of blue highlights in Aquamarine, the movie equivalent of every book that ever made up the Sweet Valley Babysitter’s Club industrial complex.

If you have ever been a girl between the ages of 10 and 13, it is likely that you spent far more money than you ever should have — money that could have been saved for a car or at least a decent haircut later in your teen years — on a series of books similar in flavor to this movie. The main characters, girls, are Best Friends 4Ever and poised to enter their last year of junior high/ first year of high school and have a crush on a boy and learn some valuable lessons and behave in spunky ways when push comes to shove. The only difference here is that, because this is a movie instead of a book, there’s a shopping montage.

Hailey (Joanna “Jo-Jo” Levesque) and Claire (Emma Roberts) are indeed BFF. Hailey is the daughter of a single mom who moves around the world to follow her oceanographer career. The move coming at the end of this summer is to Australia, which would leave Claire and Hailey, both misfits of the bright and cheery kind, each to navigate high school alone. This is just as frightening to Claire who, though she’s lived in their beach town all her life, has cocooned herself into a very safe existence pretty much consisting only of Hailey and her grandparents (Claire’s own parents drowned when she was very little).

The girls long for a way to stay together and, one night during a big storm, their dream seems to get a shot at coming true. Among the seaweed and other debris washed into the seaside pool is a mermaid, Aquamarine (Sara Paxton). A chirpy blond with stylish-blue streaks in her hair and a sparkly scale-covered tale, she hides in the pool’s neighboring shed, dries off enough to see her tail turn into legs and decides she wants to check out life on land. She’s particularly interested in finding love, as true love on land is the only way out of a loveless marriage arranged by her father under the sea.

Ditzy but confident, Aquamarine sets her sites on Raymond (Jake McDorman), the It boy of the beach town, and, taking girl-magazine-inspired advice from Hailey and Claire, she attempts to encrush him enough to tell her that he loves her. Eventually, of course, Aquamarine begins to wonder if instructions on how to laugh and flip your hair are really all they’re cracked up to be. Meanwhile, Hailey begins to wonder if it’s really fair to her hardworking mom to make her Australian job opportunity disappear with a wish. All three girls face an assortment of challenges that leave them questioning the conventional girl “wisdom” and thinking that maybe they should just do things their own way.

So what is Aquamarine? Well, in between the 90+ minutes of screechy girl squeal, it is also a movie that shouts “yay girls!” and also “believe in yourself” and occasionally “hurray for non-traditional families.” Made not just with its nail polish and teen magazine-crazy audience in mind but also with thoughts of their parents (who probably wish that once in a while movies would not make girls too young to drive, dress and act like the trampier characters from Melrose Place), Aquamarine features nothing more dangerous than a crush from afar and a few chaste kisses. Aquamarine, with its believe-in-yourself thing and its quick nod to you-don’t-need-a-boy’s-love-to-make-you-whole, is like a Dove or Nike commercial, but without the depth. Which is unfortunate, as its real lesson is that it’s OK for girls to be valued but only in mediocre market-driven films. C-

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