A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's AdventuresOverview -
Born on a Baja, California beach in 1959, new hatchling Sammy must do what his fellow newborn sea turtles are doing: race across the beach to the ocean before a seagull or crab captures them. Thus begins Sammy’s incredible fifty-year ocean journey. Along the way he meets his best friend, a fellow turtle named Ray, and overcomes obstacles both natural and man-made while trying to fulfill his dream of travelling around the world. Throughout his travels, Sammy never forgets about Shelly – the turtle he saved on his first day and loves passionately from afar. Based on the actual course of a sea turtle’s life, this story of one creature’s breathtaking journey is a thrilling voyage the whole family will enjoy.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Despite toying with the opportunity to deliver an obvious message about the environment, 'A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures' never fully commits to doing that. In some respects, it's something worth admiring, since most of us don't watch movies to see a heavy-handed lecture about humanity being the ruin of the planet. (Unless it's a documentary with narration by an A-list celebrity, then it's okay.) That's not to say the CG animated film doesn't communicate a well-intended moral that is as green as they come. Rather, it does so indirectly and cleverly, allowing for more focus on the charming story of a sea turtle's life.
Written by Domonic Paris, the plot follows the unsuspecting Sammy (Yuri Lowenthal) on his journey, from hatchling to finding a mate. In these opening moments, as the newborn turtle tries desperately to make his way to the ocean, we're quickly alerted to the lack of people occupying the beaches. Though the characters have a very simplistic, far-too cutesy and friendly style, the animation is quite astounding and beautifully detailed. The filmmakers have put a great deal of care and effort into bringing this story to the big screen. Being a film about marine-life, the best visual moments come from the coral reefs and in one scene with a pirate ship towards the end.
Before diving into the ocean depths, Sammy first makes a lifetime friendship with Ray (Anthony Anderson), another aquatic reptile swimming the seas alone. Their first encounter with the humans is a tragic and sadly all-too-familiar scene requiring a major cleanup. It's soon followed by more encounters, some embarrassingly terrible, while others are pleasantly friendly, as with the hippie Snow (Melanie Griffith). Her cat, Fluffy (Tim Curry), is a different matter. Little Sammy also receives a helping hand from the more-experienced Vera (Kathy Griffin) as he searches for Shelly (Jenny McCarthy), the turtle he believes is the one for him.
Without being pushy or completely transparent, a theme begins to emerge through Sammy's travels as certain events of humanity's influence upon the planet seem to just occur in the background. It's all done with decent subtlety, showing Sammy's goal is simple survival while desiring to explore the world. But all that is frequently disrupted by how we force our presence in every corner of the planet, whether they're hippies on rescue missions or a discarded refrigerator floating with the current to Antarctica. This makes the story fairly similar to the one seen on the wonderful documentary from Hannover House, 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey,' but here, of course, 'Sammy's Adventures' captures the imagination of younger viewers and expresses the same ideas in a way they can admire.
Paris also penned 'Fly Me to the Moon' for the same production duo responsible for 'Turtle's Tale' — nWave Pictures and Illuminata Pictures. The film's director, Ben Stassen, who also co-wrote the story and is the founder of nWave, has made a career of producing and directing 3D IMAX movies and some of the best CGI ride films. He brings much of that same energy and thrilling excitement to this family comedy, moving the camera and the framing to create the feel of swimming with fish and other turtles. Stassen clearly intended the movie to be seen in 3D since so much of this bobbing-and-weaving has various objects and animals flying at the screen. But even in 2D, the story remains a sweet tale of the aquatic life of sea turtles that children and parents can enjoy together.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Courtesy of Studio Canal, Vivendi Entertainment brings 'A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The Region Free, BD25 disc is accompanied by a second Region Free, DVD-5 disc and a code for a downloadable digital copy. Both are housed inside a blue normal keepcase on opposing panels with a glossy cardboard slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a standard menu selection with music and full-motion clips.
Sammy washes up onto the beautiful shores of Blu-ray with a lovely, sometimes immaculate 1080p/VC-1 encode.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (OAR is 2.35:1), the digital-to-digital transfer will astound viewers for most of the movie's runtime. Being an animated family film, the color palette is lush and vivid with richly-saturated primaries and full-bodied secondary hues. Black levels are deep and inky throughout, with excellent shadow delineation providing several scenes with remarkable three-dimensional depth. Though the animation falls on the simplistic side of things, definition is top-notch, with many detailed sequences, both on land as well as under the water, all of which dazzle the eye. Contrast is consistent and comfortably bright, giving the image a great deal of clarity and visibility.
Sadly, the video does come with its share of noticeable artifacts, which is a real shame given the rest of the presentation. Banding can be distractingly problematic in some places, particularly during fade-ins and fade-outs. There's also a bit of aliasing in scenes with the camera pulling away or around very fine lines of moving objects, like Catoff's whiskers. It's very mild but perceptible nonetheless. There are a few instances of posterization in the brightest whites and in the black of the fades while highlights tend to look a tad overblown. None of these things are enough to ruin the movie's enjoyment, but unfortunately, they keep the high-def presentation from earning a perfect score.
Sammy also arrives with a highly-entertaining DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack which nicely adds to the movie's enjoyment. Admittedly, rear activity is'nt quite as satisfying or dynamic as would be expected, given the subject matter, but back speakers are employed on occasion to generate some ambience or enhance the on-screen action. The music and song selections do a bit better at enveloping listeners, however lightly, and extend the soundfield with rewarding results.
This is a mostly front-heavy lossless mix with a soundstage that feels broad and spacious. Channel separation is terrifically well-balanced, with effortless movement across the screen. Dialogue reproduction is crystal-clear and intelligible from beginning to end, but there are times when voices stray from the center and become distractingly easy to localize. The mid-range is fairly extensive with wonderful acoustical detail and fidelity in the music and remains sharply clean during the few times of action. There isn't much going on in the bass department, but for scenes requiring it, low-frequency effects are pretty deep and appropriately effective.
'Sammy's Adventures' takes him to Blu-ray as a bare-bones release.
'A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures' is a sweet and charming tale about the life of a Green sea turtle, indirectly relating a message of global conservationism and environmentalism. From Ben Stassen, the filmmaker behind many 3D IMAX and CGI ride films, the movie has an amusing and energetic style which intelligently captures the imagination of children and keeps adults entertained. The audio and video presentation is quite excellent, but unfortunately, this is a barebones release aside from a DVD copy of the movie. The overall package is mostly recommended for parents wanting to give the little tykes something to really enjoy.
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