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A little bit Splash, a little bit Nickelodeon, Aquamarine is just as sweet as gummy worm bait and is guaranteed to reel in the middle school set who are itching to do something at the mall.


Even though these "tweener" movies can give you a toothache, at least Aquamarine isn't as contrived as some. It tells the story of two 13 year-old best friends--Claire (Emma Roberts) and Haley (Joanna "JoJo" Levesque)--who have the spent the entire summer at a small town Florida beach club, mooning over the local lifeguard Raymond (Jake McDorman) and dreading the moment Haley has to move to Australia, which is close at hand. Their only hope to stay together is a mermaid named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), who the girls find in the club's swimming pool after a big storm. See, Aqua has got problems of her own. Her dad wants her to marry some disgusting merman, but she believes in real love and only has three days to prove to her father it exists. Ditching the tail and getting a new pair of land legs, Aqua sets her sights on poor unsuspecting Ray and asks Claire and Haley to help. If they succeed in getting him to fall in love with her, Aqua will grant them any wish they want. Bingo! Let the games begin.


All three of the lovely leading ladies are popular with the adolescents in their own right, which gives Aquamarine a big boost from the get-go. Roberts is best known for her hit Nickelodeon series Unfabulous, and Levesque is otherwise known as JoJo, pop singing sensation. Even Paxton, who is slightly older than her co-stars, has a Saturday afternoon family show on NBC called Darcy's Wild Life. The girls have a lot natural charisma and easily fit into their roles, especially Roberts and Levesque, who do a nice job connecting as best friends dealing with an imminent separation. And while Paxton may not show much depth in playing a giggly mermaid--munching on gummy worms and calling her dad on the "shell" phone--she still has her moments. As our token hunk, McDorman is sufficiently yummy and should have all the those girls swooning (and maybe a few moms too).


First-time helmer Elizabeth Allen was very wise in choosing Aquamarine, which is based on the novel by Alice Hoffman, as her first project--its sort of a no-brainer. With the white sandy beaches of Australia subbing for Florida, the locale is lush and tropical, as the cute-as-buttons cast frolic in the sun and surf. Not a bad job, if you can get it. Then there's the whole mythological angle: mermaids are just cool, no matter how you look at it, and if you happen to become friends with one, well, that's even better. Most importantly, the film's light and breezy attitude also is fused with relatable adolescent issues. Most of the young girls watching this movie--after having lunch at the food court in the mall--will see a little of themselves in Claire and Haley, especially in their close friendship. Honestly, there isn't anything glaringly wrong with Aquamarine--if you're 13 years-old.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.