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It would be glorious to report that Aquamarine (2006) somehow transcends all the clichés you'd expect in a low-budget kids' movie about a mermaid who washes up in a Florida swimming pool and enlists two teenage girls to help her find true love in three days. It doesn't. Most inoffensive family flicks like Aquamarine are just "Disney Sunday Movies," even when they're produced by other studios (in this case, 20th Century Fox). And, not that long ago, Aquamarine was exactly the sort of cheerful, bland, made-for-TV pap Uncle Walt would introduce when "The Wonderful World of Disney" wasn't showing an animated classic. The movie's adapted from the Alice Hoffman book, and the mermaid's played by Sara Paxton, star of "Darcy's Wild Life" — yet another of those Saturday-morning shows where a 16-year-old girl weathers trivial crises in abruptly halting outfits while falling over a lot. She's washed up in the pool by a tsunami caused by her father, who's enraged that she left a merman at the altar. While you're chewing on the notion that a flaky teenager, not global warming, is the real reason for the hurricane spike, Paxton yanks the movie away from two really sweet girls (Joanna "JoJo" Levesque and Emma Roberts) — essentially giving them the roles of the crab and the seagull from "The Little Mermaid" as they help Paxton woo a hunky lifeguard (Jake McDorman) using "boy-bagging technology" ripped from the pages of Cosmo (and yes, it's vaguely sleazy when the "boy-baggers" are obviously too young to drive). The movie actually does zig when it could have zagged a couple of times: There's no big E.T.- or Splash-style chase at the end, for example, and the notion of puppy love versus true love is explored a bit. But otherwise, this is a totally predictable enterprise if you're not in the target market. Paxton fills the Renaissance-pop-idol role competently (She acts! She sings songs on the soundtrack! She designed her starfish earrings!). There's a cartoonishly evil spoiled brat (Arielle Kebbel) who looks like Britney Spears, drives a pink convertible with a license plate that reads "PRINCESS," and spouts lines like, "There's something very fishy about that girl." And Levesque and Roberts, both talented actresses, are forced to go on musical shopping montages and hop up and down and yell "Omigod!" a lot — which is as dull as the movie's perpetually overcast sky. Fox's DVD release of Aquamarine features both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame transfers on opposite sides of the disc, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Director Elizabeth Allen and producer Susan Cartsonis offer a feature commentary, and Allen also offers a very brief and pointless introduction to the film. Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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