Sunday 10 February 2013

From the archive: "A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures"

The enterprising Belgian animator Ben Stassen was one of the first to exploit the possibilities of 3D computer animation with 2008's makeweight Fly Me to the Moon. Stassen's follow-up, A Turtle's Tale, proceeds in the same amiable, hands-across-Europe vein - it's a nice, easy payday for those actors brought in to dub the original script into English - but proves no more essential: its purpose is to fill idling 3D-enabled multiplex screens while we all wait for the next Disney-Pixar. Venerable old Sammy, a sea turtle with the voice of John Hurt, recounts the larks enjoyed over the years by himself and his old "mate" Ray - the term being employed not in the animal kingdom's usual sense, presumably, although the pair do spend a lot of time together on the same small raft, and will later be observed enjoying the attentions of those sucky-fish things during a spa day.

If Stassen's humans - notably the hippy commune Sammy and Ray stray into at one point - are oddly lifeless, his creatures are rounded and cute: though they probably wouldn't pass the plush-toy test, in that even the under-sixes won't emerge clamoring for Sammy merchandise, they're easy enough to look at for ninety minutes. Also in the film's favour: it is properly stereoscopic, using 3D in such a way that its oceanscapes convey a similar sense of suspension in space as the zero-gravity in Fly Me to the Moon; there's plenty of plankton and motes drifting into your field of vision, the kind of gimmicky detail the medium does rather well. 

Trouble is, Sammy's adventures are, in the main, terribly banal, and may just be actionable under the Trades Description Act. Sammy and Ray drift round and round the Pacific; they briefly encounter nefarious oil drillers, but that threat quickly subsides; Sammy is separated from his true love Shelly, all of which is rather too cutely anthropomorphised to be true. Run-ins with personality-free sharks and piranhas offer rather greater scope for action or dramatic development, but compared to Finding Nemo, which these visuals inevitably recall, it's all distinctly small-fry. One for the very young and easily pleased, then; grown-ups will have to put up with the bland voicing (thanks again, "rising stars" Dominic Cooper and Gemma Arterton) and songs so vapid of melody and lyric ("Destiny is a funny thing... 1, 2, 3, 4, you can count on me... Love always finds a way") that the pulse fair races when Mika comes on.

 (March 2011)

A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures is available on DVD through Optimum Home Entertainment. A sequel, Sammy's Great Escape, opens in cinemas from Friday.


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