There are those rare cases where I have zero expectations for a movie and it turns out to be surprisingly enjoyable. "Aquamarine" is one of those rare cases. By no means was this a film without issues, but I consistently found myself hooked in by some of the film's best qualities. I'm certainly not among the film's target demographic, but I still found this to be a sweet and largely winning little flick.
Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque) are best friends who spend most of their days on a beach in Florida chatting about the local lifeguard, Raymond (Jake McDorman), who they don't think notices them because they're not part of the popular crowd. Heading back up the beach after being a bit humiliated, Claire's grandparents - well aware that the girls like Raymond - let the girls know that, well, they're going to have to fire him. They're only kidding, but the grandparents share a good laugh.
A storm arrives that night, washing ashore Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), who reveals herself when the girls walk by the nearby pool. Paxton's performance is certainly one of the things that sold me on the picture, as it's sassy, ditzy in a way that's not over-the-top and just a little irritable at times. Like the rest of the movie, it doesn't take itself seriously, but plays it exactly right and doesn't go over-the-top. Apparently, the role originally went to Jessica Simpson, who I can't imagine would have played it nearly as well as Paxton does here.
It turns out that Aquamarine wanted to escape from an arranged marriage set up by her father and has come ashore (sprouting legs for the first time) intending to prove that true love really exists. So, she sets her sights on Raymond and is determined to win him over, with help from Claire and Hailey. They're told that, if they help a mermaid, they get a wish. So, the girls look through all those awful teen magazines while Aquamarine, not really knowing any better, just tries to be herself.
I found some of the movie's little touches enjoyable, like how Aquamarine wears starfish earings that whisper compliments in her ears and how the girls hide Aquamarine in a water tower. Yes, there's the shopping montage, but Aqua drags the girls away from the designer mall stores and into the vintage store. A pair of minor adult characters that another teen film wouldn't care less about are nicely played and brought together by Aquamarine in a sweet moment. Most importantly, I was impressed and surprised when the movie ended in a different manner than I was 110% sure it would.
Of course, there has to be some conflict, but it arrives in the form of popular girl Cecile (Arielle Kebbel), a shrill villian who's really the worst, most generic part of the film. Kebbel, who I've liked in other films, offers an irritating, over-the-top performance in what's otherwise an enjoyably low-key movie. Levesque and Roberts don't offer fantastic performances, but they're certainly good enough and they're quite believable as best friends.
"Aquamarine" is technically rather weak (some of the special effects are primitive, for example), but I found other things to enjoy here. The performances worked well, the movie's messages (the core of the movie is the importance of true friendship) were delivered in a way that wasn't heavy-handed. "Aquamarine" isn't perfect by any means, but it's a cute, good-hearted little movie that manages to be sweet without being sappy and as condescending as most films in this genre are.
VIDEO: "Aquamarine" is presented by Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is actually quite nice, as the picture looked mostly crisp and clear (the picture's clarity probably makes some of the special effects look even more obvious), with only a couple of minor moments of softness.
As for issues, a couple of instances of minor edge enhancement were spotted. Otherwise, the picture looked crisp and clean, with no pixelation or print flaws. Colors remained bright and vibrant, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Aquamarine" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's audio is essentially a "comedy mix" - while the majority of the sound comes from the front speakers, a few moments open up a bit and include some minor/mild sound effects/ambience from the surrounds.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Elizabeth Allen and producer Susan Cartsonis, as well as 21-minutes of giggly scene-specific commentary from stars Sarah Paxton, Emma Roberts and Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque. Next are a series of featurettes: "Awesome Auditions", "It's All About the Fashion", "Kickin' It On Set", "Aqua's Squeals", "Mermaid Makeover", "Kickin' It On Set" and "Building the Capri Club".
Finally, we get a total of six deleted/extended scenes and a very brief director's intro.
Final Thoughts: "Aquamarine" is a sweet and amusing tale of friendship, with enjoyable performances and some pleasant surprises. It got little attention in theaters, so hopefully it'll find the audience it deserves on DVD. The DVD offers a nice helping of supplemental fare, as well as fine audio/video quality. Recommended.