A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the film concerns a mermaid's search for "love" among humans, and the comedy involves teenaged flirting, sexual tensions, and giddy girl behavior. Mermaid wears tight outfits, audacious girls appear in bikinis, and the "good girls" dress like tomboys. Girls read teen magazines about how to attract boys, the favorite boy is objectified in slow motion (reference to typical objectification of girls). Characters discuss sex and bodies (breasts, implants) and use mild profanity. Tense family situations include discussion of a girl's parents' drowning, another girl's parents' divorce, and an upcoming move, threatening to split up the girls' friendship. Very brief scare scene during a rainstorm.
What's the story?
AQUAMARINE focuses on two smart, mostly sensible 13-year-olds at the end of their last summer together. Claire (Emma Roberts), who lives at a small Florida resort with her grandparents, and Hailey (pop singer Joanna "JoJo" Levesque) are discovering the joys of boys, or at least the idea of boys. They've read the magazines and memorized the instructions on how to attract a boy, but they're also daunted by their rivals, slightly older girls in makeup and bikinis. They're also distracted by two major developments: one, Hailey's mother has a new job in Australia, which means the girls will be split up at summer's end. And two, they find a mermaid in a swimming pool. This would be Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), running away from an arranged marriage. Determined to prove the existence of love (and so, avoid her father's plans), Aquamarine pursues Raymond (Jake McDorman, who shows a gift for physical comedy and making faces), the very pretty lifeguard on whom Hailey has a crush. The girls and mermaid cut a deal: if, in three days, Aqua can get Ray to say he loves her, she avoids a loveless wedding and will grant the girls a wish.
Is it any good?
The movie adapts mermaid rules from Splash (Aqua can grow legs during the day, but her fishtail comes back at sundown or if her legs get wet) in order to set up absurd situations. As well, Aqua's "otherness" is marked by her naïve childishness, combined with physical oddities (fingernails that change color to show her emotions, live starfish she wears as earrings and who whisper in her ear that she's "smart" and "beautiful"), and a sensual maturity (Ray is quite smitten as soon as he sees her, though perplexed by her strange behavior).
True, the film leans too heavily on its "villain," the wealthy Cecilia (Arielle Kebble), to amp up the dramatic tension (as she competes for Ray's attention by lying and cheating). And true, Aqua is not so charming as the human girls, especially Roberts as Claire, who is convincing and adorable. But for all the narrative awkwardness and abuses heaped on Cecilia, the film comes up with a terrific ending, underlining the importance of the girls' friendship (including their new friendship with Aqua) over romance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the girls' friendship. How do Claire and Hailey help each other cope with extraordinary trauma and ordinary "growing pains"? How does their relationship change as they compete for boys' attention? How do they deal with Hailey's imminent move to Australia?
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