How many of you actually pay attention to the ratings assigned to movies? I mean, really. Most of you probably bop around seeing whatever you want without giving it a second thought, unless you have kids. And I bet half of you don't even pay attention then.
Let's take a look at an actual rating:
R Restricted -- Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian (age varies in some locations). This signifies that the rating board has concluded that the film rated contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their children to see it. An R may be assigned due to, among other things, a film's use of language, theme, violence, sex or its portrayal of drug use.
The message is perfectly simple, the meaning is clear. Still, I've grown numb to being shocked by the sheer volume of parents who violate this. At an advanced screening for The General's Daughter (a movie in which a woman is stripped naked, tied spread eagle to stakes in the ground and raped) the hosting radio station gave away a t-shirt to the youngest member of the audience. The woman who brought her five-year old was upset because she got trumped by the woman who brought her two-year old.
Next is PG- 13. When you stop to read the actual description, it doesn't sound much tamer:
PG-13 -- Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. This signifies that the film rated may be inappropriate for pre-teens. Parents should be especially careful about letting their younger children attend. Rough or persistent violence is absent; sexually-oriented nudity is generally absent; some scenes of drug use may be seen; one use of the harsher sexually derived words may be heard.
Their time will come, but right now my kids are too young for this too and they know not to even ask. Rather than writing angry letters to a Congressman or buying a V-Chip, I take personal responsibility. If I can't find a babysitter, I skip it until later.
If it's rated G, then I know there's no need for me to sit there with them. And when it's PG . . . well, that's when it gets a little trickier.
In the case of a movie like School of Rock, I saw it first alone, and when I determined it was harmless, funny and contained a good message I enthusiastically brought my girls back to see it. With Disney's Eight Below, I took them on a blind run. It is a PG-rated film that seems age appropriate – and actually, it is -- but my oldest daughter freaked out in the middle of it (SPOILER: Not all the dogs make it). So, the ratings are a close, but not exact science.
Most recently we all went to see Aquamarine together. Come on, it's about a mermaid. What could possibly be questionable about that?
It's the last summer for two pre-pubescent BFFs, Claire and Hailey, to frolic on the beach together. Giggling, painting each other's nails and commiserating over their mutual crush on the dreamy lifeguard, Raymond. Claire is moving to Australia with her mother, and the two girls are just sick about it. All hope seems lost for the duo until they alone discover a stranger visitor who washes up on shore: A mermaid named "Aquamarine".
Up to this point the movie is all very Disney Channel-ish. A John Malkovich-ian look inside the brain of a 12 year old girls that's sweet but scary at the same time. It doesn't feel good to be so accurately taken back to a time when you were SO naive about the way the world works. Especially where it comes to love and sex.
Did I mention ‘sex"?
It was right about here where I had to mentally backspin through the definition of a PG rating:
PG -- Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. This signifies that the film rated may contain some material parents might not like to expose to their young children -- material that will clearly need to be examined or inquired about before children are allowed to attend the film. Explicit sex scenes and scenes of drug use are absent; nudity, if present, is seen only briefly, horror and violence do not exceed moderate levels.
See how it mentions "nudity" (which is almost clinical) but not "sex"? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya that SEX is all I could think about throughout the rest of this movie.
Hey, don't lump me in with Roman Polanski just yet. I'm sure you're expecting this to be just an alternate version of The Little Mermaid like I did, but trust me, Aquamarine is no Ariel. She's 19-years old, bra-less, sassy, hip and so hot she makes Troy McClure's sexual obsession with fish seem . . . not all that strange anymore.
She's so hot you need to wear sunscreen to look at her.
She's so hot she makes the equator look like the North Pole.
If it weren't for the sun she'd be the hottest thing in the Milky Way . . .
Well, you get the idea . . .
Aquamarine is a small movie with a modest budget that works well within its means. They story adds the plot device that Aquamarine can voluntarily transform her fishtail into human legs as long as the sun's up and she stays dry, so the few times we do see her as a full mermaid are very effective. And like any low-budget movie, it lives or dies by the strength of its actors. "JoJo" Levesque and Emma Roberts (niece of Julia Roberts) give performances that are about as well as can be expected from the material. It's Sara Paxton that goes the extra half-step to make Aquamarine convincingly a creature from another world but not intimidated by ours.
I hadn't seen Sara Paxton since she was a little kid in Soldier, but she has grown up like a parking ticket: She has F-I-N-E written all over her.
Her father (whom I don't believe is Bill Paxton) may be an alien, because she is out of this world!
Her father must be a thief because he stole the stars and put them in her eyes.
Her father might be a lumberjack ‘cause she gave me wood the whole time I was -- -
Oh, don't give me that look like I need to register as a sex offender. As any (honest) heterosexual male will tell you: For the entirety of our lifespan there is never a time when women between the ages of 19 and 29 aren't attractive to us . . . Physically attractive, anyway. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
And don't think that this movie didn't work Sara Paxton's blonde hair, watery blue eyes and numerous tight curves for all they're worth.
*Ahem* But I digress . . .
As for what else I can remember about the plot (I was kind of distracted): According to legend, if you help a mermaid she will grant you one wish, which could solve all of Claire and Hailey's problems. Only the thing that Aquamarine wants help with is finding a boy who will fall in love with her . . . in three days(!!!) to keep her father from washing her back for her pre-arranged marriage. And to top it off, the boy she's chosen to be the recipient of her affections is their own precious lifeguard Raymond.
Had these girls been even a year older they wouldn't have been naïve enough to think this was even possible (unless Aquamarine had fallen for Danny Bonaduce) and passed on the task in favor of watching the DVD of Heavenly Creatures again (and taking notes this time!). Instead they opt to suck it up and give it their best try. What follows is pretty much akin to the second half of The Princess Diaries, including a spoiled, rich, Mandy Moore clone constantly trying to gum up the works.
Aquamarine is a movie that's never really good or bad, but does manage to be charming when you least expect it to. It's really aimed at such a narrow audience of girls between the ages of 10-16 that I felt a little uncomfortable having my 8-year old watch there.
Also it brought up some disturbing questions like: So, what is the deal with mer-people? Do the mothers always die in childbirth? Are the daughters all born with an Elektra complex? Are the mermen completely unaware of how much their fatherly possessiveness borders on incestuous?
Then again, if your daughter is Sara Paxton . . .
I mean, she's so fine that when God made her he was showing off.
I wish she was a bag of Skittles so I could taste her rainb -- -
Oh, hold on . . .
. . .
Oh, dear . . .
. . .
I . . . . I . . . um, just re-read her profile and as it turns out Sara Paxton may not be 19-years old just yet. In fact, she won't even graduate high school until later this year. *ulp*
. . . Er, in light of this new information I'm gonna have to ask that this review not be published.
Either that or I'm gonna be sharing a cell with Gary Glitter.