Director – Elizabeth Allen, Screenplay – Jessica Bendinger & John Quaintance, Based on the Novel by Alice Hoffman, Producer – Susan Cartsonis, Photography – Brian J. Breheny, Music – David Hirschfelder, Music Supervisors – Jason Lamont, Anton Monsted & Dana Sano, Visual Effects – Animal Logic (Supervisor – Morgane Furio), Creature Effects – JMB FX Pty Ltd (Supervisor – Jason Baird), Special Effects Supervisors – Brian Cox & Brian Holmes, Production Design – Nelson Coates. Production Company – Storefront Pictures/Dune Entertainment/Major Studio Partners.
Sara Paxton (Aquamarine), Joanna ‘Jojo’ Levesque (Hailey), Emma Roberts (Claire), Jake McDorman (Raymond), Arielle Kebbel (Cecilia Banks), Bruce Spence (Leonard), Claudia Karvan (Ginny), Tammin Sursok (Marjorie), Natasha Cunningham (Patty), Julia Blake (Grandma Maggie), Roy Billing (Grandpa Bob), Shaun Micallef (Storm Banks), Lulu McClatchy (Bonnie)
Hailey and Claire are young teen best friends living on Florida’s Capri Beach. Claire mourns the loss of her parents who died at sea, while Hailey is unhappy at being forced to constantly move around because of her marine biologist mother’s job. They both have a crush on the handsome lifeguard Raymond, who is also desired by the bitchy Cecilia Banks, but both girls feel socially awkward. Following a storm, they are startled to discover a mermaid in Claire’s swimming pool. The mermaid introduces herself as Aquamarine. Aquamarine has legs when she is out of water but only when it is daytime and must return to water at night. She has fled from an arranged marriage back home and wants to discover what the human notion of love is. Her father grants her three days to find someone and will allow her to stay if that someone says they love her during that time. Aquamarine immediately sets her sights on Raymond. Hailey and Claire decide to assist Aquamarine on the promise of having their wish granted. In the course of doing so, they are transformed by Aquamarine’s free and unselfconscious way of looking at things, but also have to hide Aquamarine’s true nature from Cecilia’s scheming.
Aquamarine is a mermaid film pitched as a light romantic comedy for the young teenage girl market. The film features Joanna ‘Jojo’ Levesque who has made a name for herself as a teen pop singer, as well as Eric Roberts’ daughter Emma who subsequently started to make a name for herself. Aquamarine is based on a 2001 novel of the same name by Young Adult author Alice Hoffman, who had previously been adapted to the screen with Practical Magic (1998) and the ghost story murder mystery The River King (2005).
I feel that I am entirely the wrong demographic to be watching a film like Aquamarine – it is a film pitched to girls around the age of 11-13 and I am the wrong sex and a good twenty years too late for the intended target audience. Expectedly, Aquamarine is very teenage girly – the bulk of it focuses around crushes on boys, the girls going shopping, offering Aquamarine advice on how to attract boys, reading teen magazines and bitchy teen rivalries. To its credit, there is something more serious occasionally lurking in the background of the script about both the teenage girls dealing with problem homes – Jojo Levesque’s unhappiness over her mother who is perpetually moving because of her job, Emma Roberts’ dealing with her parents having drowned at sea.
Perhaps the nearest cinematic antecedent Aquamarine has is Ron Howard’s Splash! (1984) where Aquamarine seems to be drawn upon the character of Daryl Hannah’s Madison. The dubious novelty spin that Aquamarine offers is the idea of the mermaid as a California beach blonde airhead who wanders through the entire film as a perpetual ditz without a thought in her head. At least, Sara Paxton has a sparkly energy that ends up stealing the show from the two other girls who are played as complete drips. Jojo Levesque seems thoroughly unhappy and manages to give her entire performance on a note of sourness.
The film plays with a light and entirely predictable energy. It is a film that invites us to enjoy its girlish fantasy without having to think about any of it. The annoyance is that beneath this the script manages to blatantly cheat a number of times. One of these being the start where Jojo Levesque and Emma Roberts have a crush on Jake McDorman’s Raymond but then immediately throw their crush away to help Aquamarine when she arrives and offers them a wish if they will help her fall in love. That the two lead characters’ are so blatantly driven by self-interest is something that the script never manages to comment on.
There does also seem something almost indecent when the film has two young girls – both aged sixteen in actuality, although seeming around the age of 11-12 and only just starting to develop – having crushes on a boy who, when we see him from their point-of-view, is decidedly eroticised. Elsewhere, the film one minute has Aquamarine able to speak all languages and familiar with colloquialisms, while the next she is a complete innocent in human ways.
An even bigger cheat comes at the very ending where Aquamarine falls in love with Raymond and he wavers as to commitment but the day is saved by the two teenage girls saying “We love you”. Surely any kind of magical condition would be able to notice the difference between eros (romantic) love and philia (friendship) love? Elsewhere the plot manages to swim in a sea of arbitrary conveniences – the mermaid can only have legs by day and must return to the sea by night; the need to have a guy say “I love you” within three days and so on.