A good-natured story about two awkward teen girls who befriend a mermaid, Aquamarine didn’t break any box office records during its 2006 theatrical release. The movie found its audience on home video, however, and is now available on Blu-ray. Though aimed squarely at tweens, it is competently made, with an energetic cast that helps make it a decent family offering.
Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (JoJo Levesque) are best friends with a problem. Hailey will soon be moving to Australia due to her mom’s work. As a storm rages outside their waterfront hang out, the girls make an impassioned wish for something to happen that will keep them together. That something arrives in the form of a runaway teen mermaid, who they discover in a dirty swimming pool.
The mermaid, named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), is trying to escape an arranged marriage. Her father, it turns out, doesn’t believe in love. She wants to prove him wrong and asks Claire and Hailey to help her in exchange for her granting them one wish. This provides the girls with an opportunity to stay together, so they try to set Aquamarine up with a local lifeguard, Raymond (Jake McDorman). Emerging from the water allows Aquamarine to replace her tail with regular legs, making it much easier to attract Raymond.
Complications arise in the form of a popular teen girl, Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel), who has designs on Raymond as well. The rivalry between Aquamarine and Cecilia drives much of the plot, with Cecilia determined to uncover this mystery girl’s secrets. After all, Aquamarine came out of nowhere and has a strong aversion to water (though she can drink it, contact with her skin will make her tail come back), an obsession with consuming salt, and a need to run away at sunset (again to avoid revealing her true nature).
Through it all, very mild hijinks ensue. Claire and Hailey begin to the contemplate the possibility that Aquamarine will not be able to make Raymond fall in love with her. This undesirable result would mean the failure of their mission, hence their wish not being granted. Hailey also examines whether her desire to sabotage her mom’s career plans is selfish or not.
Roberts, Levesque, and Paxton have a lot of fun in their roles, making their characters likable and sympathetic. The humor is perfectly acceptable for even the youngest audiences. The screenplay by Jessica Bendinger and John Quaintance, based on Alice Hoffman’s book of the same name, is fairly solid storytelling-wise. I was never quite clear how Aquamarine was planning to keep Hailey and Claire from being split up, but this never really gets in the way of the plot. There aren’t many surprises along the way, but the movie hits the right notes to make it a watchable time-passer.
Aquamarine has been given a serviceable Blu-ray transfer, with a rather garish look that betrays the film’s limited budget. This isn’t a pretty picture, but the target audience isn’t likely to mind. It’s hard to say if any of the flaws are inherent in the original cinematography. Colors are generally oversaturated, with skin tones often appearing unnaturally rosy. Fine detail is lacking, compromised by an abundance of rather noisy grain in many shots. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is more consistent, though still nothing extraordinary. Dialogue is crystal clear. Music, particularly the pop songs, is a little thin and trebly. The several stormy weather segments make adequate use of the rear channels. All in all, this is an effective, if bland, presentation of a kid-vid catalog title.
The supplemental material was ported over from the original DVD release. Director Elizabeth Allen and producer Susan Cartsonis offer up a commentary track. A scene-specific commentary by the trio of young female stars is fairly hyperactive and light on information. A string of featurettes, ranging from interesting (“Awesome Auditions”) to inane (“It’s All About the Fashion”), gives fans plenty of behind-the-scenes footage. The deleted scenes are nothing special, save for one particularly cringe-worthy clip in which Aquamarine farts for the first time in her life.
Fox Home Entertainment is marketing Aquamarine as a “family classic.” While I wouldn’t quite elevate it to that status, its heart is in the right place. The spunky performances help make it a reasonably entertaining film.