Judge Steve Power can't hear the word turtle without humming the Ninja Turtles theme song.
He's turtley amazing! (I'm so…so…sorry)
Coming out of Belgium's nWave Pictures (Fly Me To The Moon), A Turtle's Tale may appear to be the latest in a long line of direct-to-disc imitators of family fare from the likes of Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks, but this aspires to be more than a simple CG cash-grab. Does Sammy's adventure on and under the sea manage to rise above the mediocrity of its peers? Or does this turtle's tale sink like a stone.
Facts of the Case
Sammy is a sea-turtle, born in 1959, he reminisces to a bunch of hatchlings about his own birth, and the adventures that followed him over the following 50 years. Traveling the globe, Sammy encounters friends, foes, and a world that is constantly evolving due to humanity's impact on the environment.
It's really a shame that the American animation stduios have such a strangehold on theatres. Sony Animation, Dreamworks, and Fox often cater to the masses with dumbed down product that feels market researched to death more than created out of genuine love of the medium. Even the mighty Pixar has caved to commercial foibles here and there (Cars 2 immediately comes to mind), and while we can get earnest efforts like Rango or Coraline once in a while, the boom in digital animation really feels more like an attempt at rallying more box office receipts than making quality product. Enter Belgium's nWave Pictures and Director Ben Stassen (Fly me to the Moon).
The first thing that will surprise you about A Turtle's Tale is just how accomplished the film feels; this isn't a low rent imitator or half baked project, the animation is incredibly well executed, upper tier, well textured material that really pops off the screen. The art design is equally well done, with appealing characters and interesting backdrops.
The voice cast leans heavily on celebrity, with people like Tim Curry (Legend) and Melanie Griffith (Mulholland Falls) joined by well known character actors like Stacey Keach(Sin City) and Anthony Anderson (The Departed), and everyone handles themselves pretty well without feeling like stunt casting. The music is equally well executed, with a nice little score that complements the action well, and a handful of toe-tapping pop tunes pop up here and there without ever resorting to anything as weary as Smashmouth.
Vivendi's disc is a solid effort as well, with a great 1080p transfer that captures textures perfectly and really shines with all of the vibrant color of the surroundings. The audio is equally immersive if not completely flashy. It lacks the potent aggression of some of the bigger theatrical sound mixes, but the music sounds warm, fills the room, and the voices are clean and clear. No extras though.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
With A Turtle's Tale, nWave undoubtedly proves they can stand toe-to-toe with the beast that is Pixar from a technical standpoint, but they still have a lot to learn about telling a story. Much like Fly Me To The Moon, the plot is a pretty hackneyed affair. It's simplistic, juvenile stuff that lacks the adult appeal of the best stuff to come out of Disney, Pixar, or Ghibli in spite of a few adult situations (a beachfront hippie commune is a prime example). Sammy's 50-year voyage over land and sea is episodic and filled with characters who come and go without a whole lot of development, and there's the overt environmental message that's simplified enough to get the point across to the under 7 crowd. The brilliance of something like Finding Nemo is in its charm, in it's ability to endear itself to an audience both young or old through character growth, but this is something that A Turtle's Tale simply lacks in spite of trying.
Maybe the Pixar comparisons aren't entirely fair; it's not a painful flick for an adult to watch; it actually holds up pretty well to the Shreks, Ice Ages and Kung Fu Pandas of the world. It just doesn't quite reach those magical Pixar levels of quality. While I've been caught enjoying a lot of Disney or Pixar output on my own accord, it's unlikely that A Turtle's Tale be coming off the shelf of my own free will again, unless the kids insist.
There's a lot to like in A Turtle's Tale. Mainly the crisp, lush animation, the charming character design, and the Pixar-like sensibilities that drive the feature. Sadly, the rather bland storytelling fails to really bridge the kids to adults generation gap that Pixar usually so triumphantly hurdles, and this one will likely wind up appealing more to the young than the young at heart. That said, you could do much worse for a night in with the kids, and Vivendi's disc is an excellent effort, even lacking in any bonus features.
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