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Friday, March 03, 2006

Pre-teen girls will find 'Aquamarine' just the right color

Warning: If you're a male between 5 and 95, "Aquamarine," a junior chick flick about two pre-pubescent girls who find and befriend a mermaid, could make you green at the gills.

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However, if you are now or ever have been a girl of 8 to 13, you'll be occasionally charmed by the giggly bonds of girlfriends and "guppie love" the film portrays — but also occasionally green at the gills.

Based on Alice Hoffman's popular book, "Aquamarine" (Sara Paxton) is a beautiful 18-year-old mermaid who washes up in the swimming pool of a Florida seaside resort after a storm. She's found by two 13-year-old best friends, Claire (Emma Roberts, niece of Julia) and Hailey (Joanna "JoJo" Levesque, a pop music starlet).

Hailey's divorced mother has accepted a job in Australia. The girls — desperate to stay together — agree to help Aquamarine find love in exchange for granting their wish for Hailey not to move. To their dismay, the object of Aqua's affection is hunky lifeguard Raymond, whom they've mooned over all summer.

Nevertheless, the girls sacrifice him to Aqua and teach her coquettish tricks they've gleaned from teen magazines. It's a bit disconcerting that despite a century of feminism these are the same tricks Scarlett O'Hara used to steal husbands.

As we learned from "Splash" more than 20 years ago, mermaids have their own rules. During the day, they can walk on legs, but revert to a tail at night. Aqua must spend her nights in the town water tank, and trouble, as they say, ensues.

Like a kid with a new toy, first-time director Elizabeth Allen makes us seasick as she uses the camera to randomly speed the action up or slo-mo it down (for lusty shots of dreamboat Raymond). And her powder-pink cotton candy concoction is as insubstantial as the airy kids treat. While it will be gobbled up by preteen girls, it's just too gooey for anyone else.

For those girls, playing mermaid in the pool is a universal rite of passage — soon followed by slumber parties and flirting with boys. "Aquamarine" makes a direct hit on its target by firing on all those fronts.

But SOS, boys — abandon ship.

*By MELINDA ENNIS, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


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