Time for Remembrance of Films Past, my oft neglected series of posts started with the best of intentions.
Sabrina Down Under
Where to Watch:
Youtube (apologies in advance for the terrible screencaps)
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, visits Australia to fulfill her dreams of becoming a marine biologist. There are mermaids.
The Uncondensed Version:
Hopefully if you’re reading this review you’re okay with a little (a lot) of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Remember how there were a couple of TV movies that seemed to have approximately zero connection to the series except for the fact that Sabrina and Salem appeared in them? YOU’RE ABOUT TO. (Don’t worry, I WILL be reviewing the other one, Sabrina Goes to Rome, as soon as possible.)
At the beginning of this particular movie, we learn of Sabrina’s hitherto unexplored passion for marine biology. (Right? I seriously don’t remember her mentioning marine biology even once in the series.) Apparently a book written by one Dr. Martin (don’t worry—not Doc Martin) inspired her to visit the Great Barrier Reef. I WONDER IF SHE WILL ENCOUNTER THIS DR. MARTIN DURING HER VISIT. HMMMMMMM.
As Sabrina rides over the ocean in a helicopter to wherever the fuck she’s going in Australia, she sees someone in the water. I wonder if it’s a merman (spoiler alert: it is).
Meanwhile, Salem has planned his own getaway, booking his favorite suite at a hotel where it is apparently normal to get a room for your cat and arrange for him to have massages and drink cocktails. “Your cat’s every whim is our desire” is literally a line uttered in this movie.
Meanwhile, Sabrina is meeting up with her English cousin, Gwen, who is something of a fuck-witch (get it? Get it?). Gwen’s goal is basically to watch hot Australians sunbathing, a hobby Sabrina greatly approves of but is not very good at. One of her astute observations is “He has dimples as big as coconuts.” Uh…are we talking about the same thing here, Sabrina?
This is interrupted when Sabrina realizes the disgruntled Aussie yelling at everyone for trespassing is none other than Dr. Martin. Sabrina tells him she’s a huge fan; he basically just continues to mutter to himself. However, he does invite her to join his diving expedition the next day. (It’s okay—for once, that is not a euphemism.)
The next day, Sabrina and Gwen show up in what has to be Barbie brand diving gear. They go diving to this really bad cover of “Octopus’s Garden.” Like the ’90s pop version of “Octopus’s Garden.” I would recommend watching this scene on mute. Sabrina turns herself into a fish for no apparent reason whatsoever EXCEPT to conveniently assist her in discovering a supposedly extinct species of fish. Gwen swims back to the surface and meets BARNABY (that’s seriously his name) the merman who appears to be sick or injured; when she tries to introduce him to Sabrina, he mysteriously vanishes.
Meanwhile, Salem discovers there’s a white Persian staying at the hotel, who is a witch serving out a sentence as a cat. There are SLOW MO shots of the Persian shaking her head and licking her lips. (This movie’s target audience HAD to be cat ladies.) Though Salem expects they will bond over being trapped in cat bodies, the Persian flat out rejects him. He tries to win her over by sending himself to her on a tray. Yeah, there’s an uncomfortable amount of cat sexualization in this movie.
Returning to the Sabrina storyline, Dr. Martin informs her they will have to verify the rare fish sighting and is generally a dick since he’s miffed he wasn’t the one to discover the fish. There’s also some dramatic foreshadowing about toxic waste being dumped in the ocean and killing the reef.
Then Sabrina and Gwen find what they initially believe is a dolphin but is, in fact, Barnaby the MERMAN lying on the beach. OF COURSE they try to give him mouth to mouth as Barnaby’s sister, Fin, and a dolphin watch, dismayed that the humans have Barnaby. Sabrina teleports them away from the beach, and they drag Barnaby to her room run a bath for him (I promise you this movie is not a porno).
When he wakes up, the merman has an American accent; clearly, the moral of the story is don’t date Australians. (The human/merperson barrier is easier to breach than the Australian/American.) In order to better fit in while he recovers, Sabrina gives him legs as well as blue camo pants and a beanie (I think Sabrina’s cruel streak runs deeper than anyone ever knew during the series). There’s a montage of Barnaby using his legs to a really bad cover of “Livin’ la Vida Loca” including riding a Sea Doo, going shopping, and eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
In the meantime, someone shows Dr. Martin pictures of the merman, which he vows to find and capture FOR SCIENCE. When Sabrina brings ointment to a sick Fin, Dr. Martin places a tracking device in her backpack so he can finally have a merman of his own.
On the comic relief front, Gwen accidentally turns Salem into a catfish, who falls into the ocean. The Persian is supposed to meet Salem for dinner (and nobody at the restaurant questions this), and it turns out Salem is in fact a fish in the restaurant’s tank. By the time Sabrina transforms him back into a cat, the Persian has already left. To make it up to her, Salem takes the Persian to see the sunrise and conveniently snaps pictures of illegal toxic waste dumping in the ocean.
Returning to the unfolding mermaid tragedy, on the day Sabrina’s spell on Barnaby will wear off, Dr. Martin prepares to find the mermaid colony. To stop him, Sabrina decides to create THE PERFECT STORM; this can only end in tears. Because she’s standing in the water when Sabrina accidentally hits herself with lightning and knocks herself unconscious. Apparently this renders her temporarily unable to cast any more spells.
This entire sequence is all in vain as Barnaby crashes a car just after turning back into a merman right in front of Dr. Martin, who imprisons him in the hotel pool (that has got to be against hotel policy). Luckily, Gwen’s boyfriend, who does a really bad mermaid drag act, distracts everyone while Sabrina and Gwen free him. Unfortunately, Dr. Martin and his gang of scientists put out nets to catch Fin and Barnaby. Sabrina manages to get aboard with the help of Fin’s dolphin friend (seriously). After Dr. Martin catches the merpeople, Sabrina magically finds the supposedly extinct fish and tries to convince everyone it’s more impressive than the discovery of merpeople. She starts cutting the net; I want a movie about Sabrina becoming a member of PETA and throwing blood on people wearing fur. Is that weird? She then makes a point about who is REALLY the poacher and demands Dr. Martin let the merpeople go (LET MY MERPEOPLE GO).
After this sequence of events, Dr. Martin’s dedication to the profession is renewed; he proceeds to recite the Endangered Species Act. The Persian transforms back into a woman since her sentence is over and breaks up with Salem (as a side note, witches/warlocks really need to work on a better crime deterrent because spending 1,000 years as a talking housecat does not sound like punishment at all to me). The identified ship that has been illegally polluting is stopped, and the reef is saved. Sabrina and Gwen go scuba diving with the merpeople, wooooooooo.
The biggest disappointment of this movie is that Sabrina’s quirky aunts don’t appear at all. They were a vital part of the show, and the dynamic is entirely ruined by their absence.
I am also both delighted and dismayed that there was no Sabrina/Barnaby romance. In my memory there was, which is rather upsetting because of Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey and also because the merman’s name is BARNABY. (I really apologize to any and all members of the general population named Barnaby, but to me it sounds like the name of a sickly child in a 19th-century novel.)
On the bright side, there’s A LOT of very dramatically urgent didgeridoo music in the score (if made-for-TV movies can be said to have scores). I still think this is a reasonably entertaining movie, though perhaps not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of.
It hurts to give this movie a mere 3, but, my love of Sabrina aside, this is a fairly nonsensical film. If you never watched Sabrina, you will probably only enjoy this movie if you’re really into didgeridoo solos, cats, and/or mermaids. Mercats?
Sorry my longest review ever focuses on a made-for-TV movie about Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. It’s unforgivable, truly.