Sammy's Great Escape (2012)

Review first published in S&S April 2012


Synopsis: The Caribbean. As turtles Sammy and Ray oversee the hatching of their respective grandchildren Ella and Ricky, they are captured to be exhibits at a luxury Dubai aquarium. Recruited by Big D to help in his latest escape plot, Sammy and Ray realise the mobster seahorse does not really want to leave his fiefdom, and devise a new breakout plan for all their new friends, helped on the outside by Ella, Ricky and some octopus and squid.

Review: The underwater mafiosi from Shark Tale. The comic penguins from Happy Feet (and Madagascar). The cross-generational counterplotting and POW-movie pastiche (and even the clownfish!) from Finding Nemo. Offering minor variations on all these, while also retreading many of the key motifs from its predecessor A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures (Sammy’s avonturen: De geheime doorgang, 2010), the animated Sammy’s Great Escape (Sammy’s Avonturen 2) is derivative to a fault, as its heroes in a half shell must work in concert with other aquatic creatures to escape imprisonment in a luxury Gulf State aquarium.

This sequel suffers from a weak script full of decidedly fishy puns (“he rules this place with an iron fin”, “if the shell fits, wear it”) and wholesome bromides about helping one another and never giving up, all ensuring that it remains firmly targeted at very young audiences, unlike Lee Dae-hee’s altogether more harrowing (but thematically rather similar) trapped-in-a-tank trauma-‘toon Padak (2012). The film’s greatest asset, however, is clear from the opening ‘shots’ of turtle hatchlings swimming to ‘camera’ and seagulls swooping through the air: here visual spectacle trumps all else, as Belgium-based nWave Pictures (Fly Me To The Moon) make exemplary use of the full 3D spectrum to get children reaching out in front of themselves and gasping, awash with the kind of awe from which future cinephilia is hatched.

Anton Bitel