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If you have to watch one Disney+ movie this May, stream this one

A mermaid sits in a bathtub in Aquamarine.
20th Century Studios

Disney+ subscribers have almost certainly noticed by now that this month’s selection of new movies is abysmal if you don’t also have a Hulu subscription. While Disney CEO Bob Iger recently crowed to investors that Disney+ is now profitable, he neglected to mention that the streamer only achieved that status because the programming has been severely cut. Unless you really love documentaries about The Beatles, Queen, The Beach Boys, or Jim Henson, there are literally no other new movies on Disney+ in May beyond the offerings from Hulu.

Because of the Hulu integration, it’s now even harder to find a movie on Disney+ (outside of the major Disney brands) that you can actually watch with the original subscription that you paid for. That’s something Disney+ subscribers should be very upset about. But even with these misguided content decisions, if you have to watch one Disney+ movie this May, then the film to stream is a 2006 romantic comedy/fantasy called Aquamarine, which is based on the book by Alice Hoffman. It’s not actually a Disney film, but fans of The Little Mermaid may recognize certain aspects of the plot. If you’re looking for reasons to watch Aquamarine, we’ve got a few to share.

Sara Paxton is charming as the title character

Sara Paxton in Aquamarine.
20th Century Studios

Aquamarine is the name of both the film and the title character, as played by Sara Paxton. And if you think Aquamarine is a weird name for a mermaid, have you heard about the comic book angel called Avengelyne? Paxton’s Aquamarine may remind you of Daryl Hannah’s character from Splash, or even Margot Robbie from Barbie.

Aquamarine is practically a literal fish out of water, and Paxton gives her a persona that’s both charming and a little goofy. Paxton also embraces some of the film’s physical humor, and she doesn’t seem to mind when the joke is at her expense.

It subverts the tropes of The Little Mermaid

Jake McDorman and Sara Paxton in Aquamarine.
20th Century Studios

Early in the movie, Aquamarine reveals that she’s come to the surface world to escape an arranged marriage. She also says that she only has three days to prove to her father that true love exists before she has to return to the sea. That’s not too dissimilar from Ariel’s story in The Little Mermaid.

The point of departure from that trope is that the object of Aquamarine’s affections, Raymond (Jake McDorman), is very resistant to the idea of true love. He clearly likes her, but Raymond is also in no hurry to fall in love or make a long-term commitment to someone he barely knows. This story may be a fantasy, but Raymond’s response to Aquamarine’s declaration of love feels more realistic because he doesn’t immediately feel the same way.

Emma Roberts and JoJo have a believable bond

Emma Roberts and JoJo in Aquamarine.
20th Century Studios

The real heart of this movie belongs to Emma Roberts and Joanna “JoJo” Levesque’s respective characters, Claire Brown and Hailey Rogers. They are the two young girls who befriend Aquamarine and attempt to help her win over Raymond. But Claire and Hailey are also facing the prospect of being separated because Hailey has to move with her mother to Australia.

Their shared fear of losing each other drives Claire and Hailey through the story, especially since Aquamarine promises to give them a wish if they help her find true love. Roberts and JoJo seem believably anguished at the prospect of Claire and Hailey being torn apart, and that goes a long way toward making the audience believe that they really are close friends.

It’s not a typical true love story

The cast of Aquamarine.
20th Century Studios

Raymond is not a bad guy in this story — he’s just not what Aquamarine really needs. And the film makes a point of showing Aquamarine and the audience that her real story of true love isn’t with the guy she just met. It’s with Claire and Hailey, the two girls who are willing to put their own lives on the line to help Aquamarine achieve her heart’s desire.

By the end, the girls aren’t just helping Aquamarine because they expect a reward. They’re doing it because they love her as a friend. It’s not the romantic love that Aquamarine was hoping to find, but it is a form of true love that will last a lifetime.

Watch Aquamarine on Disney+

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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