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A Nice Little Film That Never Shakes Feeling Flat

Cover You’d certainly be forgiven if 2010’s A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures slipped by you without notice. In a literal, uh, sea of competition, STUDIOCANAL’s take on the oceanic talking-animal CG thing didn’t make the biggest splash. And unlike a variety of the underwater films flooding the market at the time (Finding Nemo, DreamWorks’ Shark Tale, The Reef (and Reef 2), Dolphin: The Story of a Dreamer, Sea Level and ultimately ending with the abysmal Legend of the Sea; I would place in that order from best to worst); A Turtle’s Tale was surprisingly enjoyable. On my make-shift hierarchy, I would place the first Turtle’s Tale probably between DreamWorks’ Shark Tale and The Reef.

It was only natural then that the creative force behind the film would give it another go and on August 15 of 2012, A Turtle’s Tale 2: Sammy’s Escape from Paradise hit Belgian theaters. Coming in at a runtime of 93-minutes (up from 88 for the original), the sequel picks up right where the first film leaves off with lead characters Sammy and Ray supervising the new generation of green and leatherback turtle hatchlings and their quest to cross the beach to reach the ocean.
In short an attack by seagulls, who want the hatchlings for food, results in the adult turtles’ collective distraction from approaching poachers. As a result they get captured and end up on a fishing boat that deposits them in a one of the most beautiful aquariums in the world.

From here the formula actually starts to resemble classic prison break films thematically with the (admittedly adorable) hatchlings doing the best they can to assist their captive grandfathers in escaping back to the open ocean.

Interestingly while the first film spanned a period of 50-years, the sequel tells of an adventure that couldn’t have lasted for more than a week or two. Director Ben Stassen, founder of nWave Pictures, returns for this sequel but shares the director credit with Vincent Kesteloot, who makes his feature-length debut in this piece. Perhaps as a result of this collaboration (or maybe even in spite of it), the pacing of the film isn’t quite as fluid as the first. This isn’t too suggest there are superfluous or unnecessary scenes or segments that do little to advance the overall prose so much as a lack of cleverness makes itself felt in about the middle of the film that never fully dissipates by the conclusion.

It appears as though the filmmakers realized this too and went the extra nautical mile to create some interesting coconspirators in the aquarium; among these a lobster with multiple personality disorder, a bug-eyed blobfish with a penchant for playing dead named Jimbo and a gangster seahorse named Big D just to mention a few. The bad news is even such a unique group of characters can’t distract the viewer from the simple fact that, not unlike Finding Nemo, Back to the Sea and a dozen other films before it, the core of the tale is the captive characters attempting to flee a tank. Of course, and as is becoming standard fare in these types of films, eco themed environmentalism is one of the major themes incorporated into the onscreen antics. Big D may be the superficial “villain” of the piece but is quite harmless when compared to the human threats, which come in the form of poaching, imprisoning, polluting, killing, ingesting and so on.
In the plus column, the film’s soundtrack dazzles and makes use of a track that has been inconspicuously absent from all the underwater films preceding this one: The B-52’s Rock Lobster.

All in all, the film is by no means unwatchable and there’s always the possibility that youngsters will enjoy the big-eyed characters and bright background visuals. Adults will likely find themselves glancing at their watches from the middle onward. However, created on a very modest budget of $10-million and having grossed $69.5 mil at the box office alone, there’s the very good possibility the filmmakers will have an opportunity to atone when they revisit Sammy and all his underwater pals in future installments.