Well, 3 films in 2 weeks with the kids! This time I took both of them to see Sammy’s Great Adventure. I have to say, whilst Lottie (5) was quite keen, James (nearly 9) was not. I could understand it as, quite clearly, the film was aimed at an audience a bit younger than him. Once I’d explained it was was the only film on at that time, it was a better option than staying at home he was persuaded to come along.
As you may be aware this is the sequel to Turtle’s Tale and features the continued adventures of Sammy the Turtle who has now become an established grandparent. As a result of trying to protect the latest batch of the Turtle family that are hatching out Sammy and his friend Ray get captured and taken to a private aquarium whilst their grandchildren get left behind. The film charts the journey of the grandchildren Ricky and Ella as they seek to track down their grandparents. Think “Finding Nemo” with the age groups reversed and you won’t be far off the basic plot.
So what did I think about it? Once again, I didn’t watch the 3D version. Nevertheless, even watching the 2D edition, it was quite clear that the film makers were trying to make the most of the 3D technology. I don’t mind that, in itself, but, right from the start, you wondered whether some sequences had been included simply because of the 3D? For example, the opening shot which follows a seagull swooping and gliding from the heavens down to earth was fine, but was it really necessary for it to fly through the letters of the title of the film? And what were those letters doing several hundred feet in the air anyway? (Is there such a thing as “Gratuitous” use of 3D?)
As the film went on, the reason for this was quite clear. The film makers strategy was “better make the most of the 3D because we’ve not got much else”. Take the 3D out of it, and the film was, visually, pretty ordinary. But visual spectacle isn’t everything of course. Given that this is a release from what must be a relatively small Belgian production company, of course it would not be up to the same CGI gold standard as the Dreamworks and Pixar offerings. Does that automatically make it a bad film? Not necessarily, but I’ll be honest, it wasn’t great.
So what was the problem? As you look at the various opinions around the web there are some people who are incensed about the plot being so similar to Finding Nemo. In my opinion, that’s a bit silly. Take away the sea-life element and it might be similar to a lot of films. But that doesn’t make it bad. Others feel that, like it’s predecessor, the film was a missed opportunity to get over the environmentalist message. To be honest, I quite liked the idea that it took a nuanced and balanced approach despite the low age of its target audience.
The problem with the film is, in essence, this. Aquatic films are, by nature, a little bit slow. (Gliding through water, hanging about in tanks, sinking, slowly, to the bottom, travelling by boat…you get the picture.) When the main players are turtles (who, of course, are not the speediest of creatures) that slows things down further. However, when the two central characters are also Grandparents…well…need I say anymore?
Some people will instantly say, “that’s a very ageist comment” on the grounds that a film about two old people who got kidnapped could be quite entertaining. However, if those two old people were then transported across the country in a milk float and then placed in an old people’s home where they didn’t do much…you can see where I’m going here.
Even the action sequences involving our main duo just seemed a bit odd. At times they reminded me of the occasional fight that breaks out in Wetherspoons between two old blokes who’ve one or two sherbets too many. Despite all the huffing and puffing, somehow the action never really seems to get started.
Incidentally, I do get the point that, it couldn’t really be parents, (as opposed to Grandparents) involved in the storyline with the newly born offspring. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the point that the basic plot concept had an uphill struggle from the start.
The lack of pace, wasn’t helped by the fact that the film is dubbed. I’ll be honest, the dubbing isn’t bad and I didn’t notice it to be out of sync at any point in the film. Nevertheless, you still have the underlying feeling that the dialogue is not quite “natural” and it has the effect of making a slow film, even slower.
I try to avoid reading other peoples’ opinions before seeing a film that I’m going to critique. However, on this occasion, the one piece of information I didn’t manage to avoid was a concern about the films U rating being too low. Whilst, given what I’ve said above, this might sound difficult to believe, I can understand this concern. Despite the lack of pace, there is one section in the middle of the film that caused my 5 year daughter to jump into my lap in fright. However, there have been no flashbacks or nightmares, so I guess it just made her “jump”. Be aware, though, if you have a particularly sensitive junior going to view.
Having written most of this article I did check out some other opinions out there to see what various people thought and there have been some particularly cutting reviews. (My personal favourite was along the lines of “You could take your kids to see this at half term…but only if they’ve been particularly naughty”.) But despite all my misgivings I have to be honest and say that the film is not that bad. Yes, it wasn’t that good either but it certainly doesn’t deserve some of the scathing reviews that it has received. It’s certainly no worse than the vast majority of animations that my kids enjoy on TV all the time (and a lot better than some!)
But that is, in essence, the problem. If you are going to shell out the best part of £20 to take two kids out for a couple of hours, you want it to be a much better experience than sitting at home and watching the telly. But swap the £20 for the few quid that it will cost if/when gets shown at a cut price, weekend AM, kids special, and it’s an enjoyable morning’s entertainment when seen on the big screen. As I said in the intro, it’s a better option than staying at home.
One thing, unrelated to the film that I have to get off my chest is this. Whatever happened to the out-takes during the credits? I’m not quite sure which film started it but it seemed, for a while, that every film had some kind of additional blooper reel during the end credits. But none of the three films I’ve seen during the last 2 weeks had anything remotely entertaining during the credits. Why is this? Is it pressure from cinema chains struggling to clear their theatres in time? Or perhaps studios wanting to keep out-take reels for the DVD extras? Who knows? It’s a shame anyway.