Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Best friends Claire and Hailey are heartbroken at the thought of being separated when Hailey's mother takes her away to Australia. When they discover a mermaid stranded in a pool after a storm, she offers them a wish if they will help her to win the love of local lifeguard Raymond. Though they both have crushes on Raymond themselves, the girls agree to the challenge - but they still have lessons to learn about what's really important in life.

Aquamarine is one of those teen pictures that will actually go down best with an audience of younger girls, perhaps around the age of eight or nine. Although it's largely about the business of lusting after boys, with the camera paying almost pornographic attention to Raymond, the focus is on romance rather than sexuality and there's nothing here that parents will find problematic.

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Rather than encouraging hopeless fantasies about love, the film ultimately takes a sensible and realistic look at the complicated emotions involved in growing up, but manages to do so without being patronising. The two girls are both very natural and make engaging heroines.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Sara Paxton, as the mermaid, who is ditzier that Darryl Hannah in Splash, without any of the charm, and who approaches her fish-out-of-water character by simply not bothering to act. Even high-spirited kids who relate easily to the hectic pace of the girls' adventures will find her giddiness irritating. She drifts through the film striking a series of poses and there's nothing beyond the supporting cast's conviction to persuade us to care about her plight.

In examining issues of responsibility and growing awareness of the wider world, Aquamarine makes good use of its older cast, but there are some curious omissions. Nasty girl Cecilia, potentially one of the most interesting characters, is entirely demonised despite the fact that adult viewers will quickly identify her as a girl with serious problems of her own.

Although Jake McDorman works hard to make him personable, Raymond is distinctly two-dimensional and no challenge is made to the way the girls objectify him. Discussions on the importance of individuality are subsumed by the genre convention of shopping sprees and reliance on teen magazines, though the script does at least give its heroines credit for the vast amounts of knowledge they have absorbed from reading in this specific area. Less credit is due to its approach to action, particularly water safety issues, which are really badly mishandled.

Aquamarine succeeds as a feelgood piece of fluff and will help to pass the time on summer holidays, but there's little here of any substance and it will soon be forgotten again.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2006
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Two teenage girls discover a mermaid stranded in a pool after a storm.
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Director: Elizabeth Allen

Writer: John Quaintance, Jessica Bendinger, based on the novel by Alice Hoffman

Starring: Emma Roberts, Joanna "JoJo" Levesque, Sara Paxton, Jake McDorman, Arielle Kebbel, Claudia Karvan, Bruce Spence

Year: 2006

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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