April 2, 2013

A Turtle’s Tale 2: Sammy’s Escape from Paradise (2012)

MY MAIN GRIPE ABOUT 2010's A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures was how such a beautifully animated film could house such a plodding story and minimal character development (not to mention a subtle-as-a-sledgehammer environmental message).

The hope was that director Ben Stassen would beef up his story and its players for A Turtle Tale’s 2: Sammy’s Escape from Paradise, where we’re reunited with an advanced-age Sammy (Johnny Wesley) and his best friend Ray (Thomas Lee), who find themselves trapped by poachers and dumped into The Tank, a lavish underwater restaurant/aquarium. As they try to reunite with their grandkids Ella (Shyloh Oostwald) and Ricky (Carter Hastings), who have followed them to The Tank, Sammy and Ray try to hatch an escape plan to get past Big D (Dennis O’Connor), the tough-talking seahorse who rules the aquarium with an iron fin.

With A Turtle’s Tale 2, Stassen and his team have cut way back on the save-the-earth messaging of the original Turtle’s Tale, but the imbalance between animation and character depth still remains. Once again, the film is beautifully animated, with fluid character movement and sprawling seascapes. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t as engaging, nor is their dialogue.

This one-dimensional approach to the creatures’ personalities isn’t limited to Sammy, Ray, and their grandturtles. The inhabitants of The Tank are also one-note, stock stereotypes – a virtual United Nations of sea life sporting overbearing Spanish, French, and Italian accents, to name a few. And while Big D may be positioned as the big baddie who won’t let Sammy and Ray leave, he’s about as menacing as a tough-talking fish stick from Staten Island.

Save for one inspiring, extended sequence where Ella and Ricky are chased through the aquarium by a pair of barracudas, the action – whether to advance the plot or merely keep your attention – is virtually nil. It probably doesn’t help when your two leads are a pair of old, slow-moving sea turtles who make Finding Nemo’s Crush look like Usain Bolt.

A Turtle’s Tale 2 does feature an enjoyable yet odd use of a classic rock soundtrack, including Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” The Champs’ “Tequila,” and the morbid choice of the B-52’s “Rock Lobster” as a restaurant couple crack apart and slurp up a freshly served pair of the song’s titular crustaceans.

Just like its predecessor, A Turtle’s Tale 2 is a disappointing and frustrating experience. Stassen and his obviously talented team of animators and filmmakers have again put immense efforts into creating a visually enthralling world, but little to no effort into the characters who inhabit it. Gorgeous style, very little substance…and another wasted opportunity.

aka Sammy’s Great Escape.

What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
A Turtle’s Tale 2 was unable to keep their attention. By the halfway point, they were doing other things while the film played in the background. (Truth be told, I was checking the clock by that point, too.) FilmBoy’s official verdict? “It wasn’t the best movie ever. It was okay. It was definitely better than the first one.”

Is it suitable for your kids?
Violence/Scariness: Seagulls try to eat a group of turtle hatchlings as they make a run from the beach to the ocean. A couple of dopey little fish are eaten by a pair of barracudas (one gulp, no blood). Ella and Ricky are in danger of being eaten as they’re chased by the same barracudas.
Rude Humor: Seagulls unleash a barrage of bird droppings on a boat’s crew.
Language: One mention of “idiot.” An eel declares, “You don’t have a friggin’ clue.”
Alcohol: Bartenders at a club in the aquarium mix and serve drinks.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
She may want to watch it based on the setting, premise, and cute box art, but steer her clear. She’ll be bored within the first 30 minutes.

"What a cutie. Shame to eat 'em in just one bite..."

A Turtle’s Tale 2: Sammy’s Escape from Paradise
* Directors: Ben Stassen, Vincent Kesteloot
* Screenwriter: Dominic Paris
* Stars: Johnny Wesley, Thomas Lee, Shyloh Oostwald, Carter Hastings, Dennis O’Connor
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Rent A Turtle’s Tale 2: Sammy’s Escape from Paradise from Netflix >>

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