A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this animated, musical version of Romeo and Juliet is meant for little kids. Starring seals and other sea creatures, the film sticks to the basic story of the original at least some of the time, but changes the play's tragic ending. Only a few speeches have any relationship to Shakespeare's English; the rest of the dialogue is casual and current. Numerous scenes show the seals fighting, chasing, and threatening one another, falling into the ocean's depths, and isolated in captivity. Several characters are either "missing in action" or appear to be dead; a long time passes before it's revealed that they are still alive and well. There are lots of insults directed at the overweight leader of the seals; he's taunted for his size and called "blubber-butt." Some kids may be put off by the incessant "smooching" of Romeo and Juliet -- they're innocent kisses, but there are many of them.
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What's the story?
The Montagues and the Capulets are two warring families of seals. Their ongoing feud is based on the color of their fur: the Montagues are brown; the Capulets are white. When Romeo and Juliet, two of their young family members, fall in love despite warnings and threats, the ocean world is fractured. And because Juliet Capulet has been "promised" in marriage to the seal prince, Romeo is in danger. After a romantic, secret wedding, the prince discovers them together and banishes Romeo to Shark Island, an isolated, fearsome place. But the Friar who performed the marriage ceremony for the two lovers has a plan: He'll make a potion; Juliet will drink it and appear to die, thus showing the seals the terrible consequences of their feud. The plot almost backfires when Romeo believes his beloved to be dead. However, unlike the Shakespearean tragedy upon which the story is based, lessons are learned, everyone wakes up, and "all's well that ends well."
Is it any good?
It seems harsh to judge this well-meaning labor of love by one man who created the entire film on his computer, 95% of it drawn by hand. Phil Nibbelink, one of the inventive minds behind An American Tail: Fievel Goes West and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, wanted to introduce kids to the joy and beauty of William Shakespeare in a way that they would understand. But overall, it's an amateurish effort with a grating villain, tired jokes, and sub-par music. The sequence in which the star-crossed lovers are believed dead will probably go over the heads of most young kids and need explaining. Generally, a minor effort with some cute seals and good intentions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the Montagues and the Capulets didn't like one another. What did it mean when someone said "What's in a color? A fish of any other color would still smell as sweet."
When did the two families realize that fighting was a very bad idea? What did they almost lose?
Mercutio made fun of the prince for being fat. Have you ever been teased about something? How did it make you feel?
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