Sammy and Ray, a pair of precocious sea turtles, are back with another adventure through the changes impacting their environment and endangering their species. It's been a few years since Sammy's first exploration of the high seas, and the two friends remain close as they affectionately guard over a new batch of hatchlings from a hungry flock of seagulls. During the scuffle, poachers in grimy clothing suddenly show up with nets and a cynical attitude, capturing not only the two friends but one churlish seagull and a pair of newborns - Ricky and Ella - in the process. Soon after, the turtles find themselves imprisoned to a life of captivity inside an oversized aquarium, making them more aware of humans' ever growing encroachment and obsession collecting wild animals for entertainment.
As in its predecessor, Sammy's adventures come with a strong conservational concern, one that thankfully doesn't overwhelm and overshadow a well-told story at the center. Writer Domonic Paris, who also penned the first movie, smartly hints at an ecofriendly message in an amusing tale that dreams of 'Finding Nemo' and 'The Great Escape.' Personally, as much as I agree with the message, I generally prefer its delivery communicated through clever plots which demonstrate the concern rather than preach it from a self-made pulpit. 'A Turtle's Tale 2' does exactly that with commendable results, expressing important environmental issues to children in ways they can understand and better appreciate, while parents are entertained by the turtles' escape plan.
Director Ben Stassen, founder of nWave Pictures which is known for their 3D thrill rides, returns for this sequel but shares the credits with Vincent Kesteloot, making his feature-length debut. Like the loggerhead Sammy and the leatherback Ray, Stassen and Kesteloot make a great team, filling the screen with amusing energy and stunning 3D effects. Mixing typical gimmick pop-out effects of things flying at viewers' faces with several wide shots that impressively separate the foreground from the background that create a genuine sense of distance and space, the picture is an endless array of beauty and spectacular photography that dazzles the eye. Added to that, the filmmakers keep things exciting with many action sequences that shouldn't frighten the youngest in the audience.
Inside the aquarium, Sam and Ray make a few new friends as they try to figure out their situation. Most responsive and loyal is an eccentric lobster named Lulu that talks to its claws as if with individual personalities, and most helpful is Jimbo, the funny-looking but highly rare blobfish that comically has more lives than a cat. Their attempts at breaking free from the enormous marine museum are met with unease from Big D - a tough-talking Mafioso-like seahorse who's none-too-kind about strangers butting into his artificial territory, and his two French eel henchmen. Meanwhile, Ella and Ricky have an adventure of their own outside the aquarium where they ask a very friendly mother and daughter octopus for help in rescuing the baby turtles' grandparents from captivity.
Despite a well-intentioned plot that attempts to introduce children to the ethics of wild animal captivity, 'A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape from Paradise' unfortunately comes with a couple prosaic moments which endanger the film's overall enjoyment. Some of the other offbeat but exotic sea creatures in the aquarium are inconsequential and their interactions with the turtles are a bit dull, but a good chunk of the story's drabness comes surprisingly from Big D's (the plot's main antagonist) confrontations and threatening behavior towards the other animals. Nevertheless, these are admittedly minor, mostly negligible quibbles in an animated feature meant for the youngest among us, which I'm sure they'll easily ignore and simply enjoy the colorful festivities in this otherwise enjoyable follow-up.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Courtesy of Studio Canal, Vivendi Entertainment brings 'A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape from Paradise' to 3D Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The Region A locked, BD50 disc, which contains both a 2D and 3D version of the movie, is accompanied by a second DVD-5 disc. Both are housed inside a blue, eco-vortex keepcase on opposing panels with a glossy cardboard slipcover. After a trailer for 'A Monster in Paris,' the disc goes to a 2D menu screen with music and full-motion clips.
Sammy's next misadventure swims through Blu-ray waters with a remarkable 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode that have your eyes melting in 3D goodness. In fact, the 1.78:1 image is so good that it sits comfortably alongside its predecessor as one of the very best 3D presentations available on the format thus far. As in the first movie, director Ben Stassen, working with co-director Vincent Kesteloot, makes excellent use of the camera and provide viewers with one stunning scene after another. Various objects floating in the ocean and in the oversized aquarium extend beyond the screen, slowly moving towards the audience. Certain features in the faces of sea creatures break the fourth wall, especially when a pair electric eels and the Mafioso sea horse show up.
Stassen-Kesteloot and their team mix much of these smaller moments with various other pop-out effects that range from your typical gimmick shots to more natural-looking scenery. From a pair of barracudas snapping at your face to a pile of garbage from a shoot, the movie at times seems like an endless array of things flying out from the screen. Several of the sea creatures appear to float freely in the middle of the living room, showing excellent separation of the background from the foreground. The image extends far back into the distance, generating one of the most astonishing feelings of three-dimensional space encountered yet. Arguably, the best scenes come early on with a confrontation between the hatchlings, the seagulls and the humans on a rickety, old fishing boat.
The entire presentation is truly a sight to behold, and thankfully, its 2D counterpart is no slouch as well. The digital-to-digital transfer is razor-sharp with outstanding definition, in spite of the animation's simplicity. From the tiniest imperfection in the aquarium or the ocean floor to the bodily textures of sea creatures, fine object details are extraordinarily distinct. Some animals even reveal small wrinkles around the eyes and face. Contrast is spot-on with brilliant, clean whites and inky rich black levels, adding incredible depth to the image. The color palette is sumptuous with intense, energetic primaries and secondary pastel hues inside the aquarium provide the picture with a great deal of warmth. Sammy's second outing is another 3D paradise.
The audio for Sammy's great escape, however, is not quite as impressive, but it's still an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that adds another layer of enjoyment to the amazing video. This is a mostly front-heavy presentation with a wide and expansive soundstage. Channel separation is very well-balanced with tiny critters scurrying about the screen, and dialogue reproduction is crystal-clear and well-prioritized. Dynamic range is highly-detailed with several great moments of clarity in the upper frequencies during the more harrowing action sequences. The low-end is powerful with a couple nice punches that dig fairly deep and add some weight. Rear activity is pretty sparse, mostly reserved for the music of Ramin Djawadi and the song selections, but a few discrete effects expand the soundfield with strong directionality. All in all, the lossless mix puts on a great show and makes a nice addition to the movie.
'A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape from Paradise' is a direct follow-up to 2010's cutesy animated feature from nWave Pictures, picking up several years later after the events of the first movie. With an ecological theme at the center of the plot, the story follows Sammy and Ray in captivity inside an enormous underwater aquarium. Like its predecessor, this 3D Blu-ray arrives with another stunning, reference-quality 3D presentation that will blow audiences out of the water, accompanied by a strong and enjoyable audio quality. Unfortunately, the sequel finds its way to home theaters as a bare-bones release, but thankfully, the overall package is still recommended to those hungry for more quality 3D video.