The best thing about this fairy tale is that its happily-ever-after ending is satisfyingly real world. It’s the most enchanting treat for girls since The Princess Diaries.
It’s less of a fairy tale than a fish tale, at least half a fish tale. Best friends Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (Joanna ‘JoJo’ Levesque) can’t bear to see the summer end. They have had a wonderful time watching dreamboat lifeguard Raymond (Jake McDorman) every day at the beach. But the real problem is that they are about to be separated. Hailey’s mom has a new job on the other side of the world, in Australia.
After a huge storm, they find a mermaid named Aquamarine in a swimming pool. She tells them that she has just three days to prove to her father that there is such a thing as love, and if they help her, she will give them a wish.
Aquamarine decides Raymond is the one she wants to love her. Claire and Hailey are willing to help her with their crush because it means not just getting their wish to stay together but keeping him away from mean girl Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel).
Claire and Hailey are at exactly the age where those friendships mean everything and Roberts and Levesque have a believable chemistry whether they’re laughing, plotting, or arguing. Sara Paxton sparkles as Aquamarine. Her character’s confidence inspires the girls, but they learn even because they have to take care of her. That gives them a sense of their own strength and power and a greater appreciation for those who take care of them.
The story, based on Alice Hoffman’s YA novel, nicely blends the fantasy
elements with astutely observed portrayals of early-teen fears and friendships. That’s where the real magic is.
Parents should know that the movie has some brief strong language for a PG, including one use of the b-word. There is some slight peril and some discussion of crushes and who is “hot” and who has a good figure and a mild joke about all the girls and some of the boys having crushes on Raymond. There are plot themes relating to the loss of parents through death and divorce.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Claire and Hailey said mean things to each other. Who were they really mad at? What were the most important lessons Claire, Hailey, Aquamarine, Raymond, and Celia learned. Why?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the other classic mermaid movies, including Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, the Fairie Tale Theatre version, and Splash (some mature material). And they will enjoy the book by Alice Hoffman. And they might like to read my interview with Sara Paxton about playing a mermaid.