The problem with reviewing a bad film is this: You have to relive the damned thing all over again in order to properly convey the extent of the film’s badness. So you put it off, perhaps hoping that a good night’s sleep will put the film’s suckage in a better light. On awakening, there sits the keyboard, the mere sight of which sets off the nausea anew. In the case of Aquamarine, a mermaid-comes-on-dry-land-and-hijinks-ensue comedy aimed at the demographic that actually wears Mary-Kate and Ashley’s “designs” without a trace of irony, I suppose we’d best call that nausea “seasickness.” Any more subtle a pun would defy the standard set forth by the film itself.
It’s not the script that’s the big problem, however. This time, given a fairly clever story, very appealing characters and not-half-bad dialogue, the responsibility for the utter, irredeemable suckage of the film rests squarely on the shoulders of the director.
I am beginning to think that there is a vast male conspiracy in Hollywood to set up just enough female sure-failures in prime directing gigs, so they can later point to those examples and shrug, “We tried. The wimmins just ain’t built fer directin’.” Elizabeth Allen, at any rate, doth suck at it mightily. Attention future directors of “tween” movies: When your cast of characters consists of four teenaged girls and a McDreamy lifeguard, I’m sorry, but when they suck, it’s your fault. I don’t know how old these girls were when they filmed, but let’s just say they were 14; if a couple of 14-year-old girls deliver crappy line readings, the onus is on the director to give them better versions to try. And if a backdrop ends up looking like … a fucking backdrop, then the onus is on the director to send it back to the art department — or fire the fucking cinematographer.
The story is simple and sweet: best friends Hailey (Joanna ‘JoJo’ Levesque) and Claire (Emma Roberts, Julia’s niece) face imminent separation, as Hailey’s mother is moving them to Australia. A magical storm rains down one evening and the girls find Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), a mermaid who has “swum away from home” (I kid you not) and flopped into the beachside pool at their club hangout. If she cannot prove to her father that love exists as more than a mythical construct, Aquamarine must return to the sea and marry the dorky merman her father has picked for her. The mermaid sets her sights on Raymond the lifeguard (Jake McDorman), and enlists Claire and Hailey to help her, in return for a wish, which the girls plan to use in order to thwart the move to Australia. Among the many hindrances to the plan: the requisite nasty popular girl, Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel), who wants Raymond for her very own. Hijinks ensue! Hijinks freaking ensue! Oh, God, someone send me to a movie that cannot be summed up with that godforsaken phrase!
Will the mermaid find love? Will her fin be found out? Will Hailey and Claire be separated forever? Will Raymond ever say anything worth all the adoration being thrown at him? Will the bad girl be redeemed?
And do I care?
I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a few laughs during the watching of Aquamarine. There was a lot of clever stuff among the seaweed. A lot of innocent laughs lighten the load, and cuteness does ensue. But Christ, did it have to be so pedestrian? What we have here is a film with the visual and artistic quality of your basic Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie. Given better direction and just one more rewrite, it could have been a teen classic. Instead, it’s a barely-tolerable mediocre muddle, an insult to its audience — not to mention to any hapless adults who might have wandered into the theater by mistake or design.
Maryscott O’Connor reviews children’s movies for Pajiba and publishes the liberal weblog My Left Wing. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son.Aquamarine / Maryscott O'Connor
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()