Sea Level

 
Weak, poorly-plotted animated tale with scares, few laughs.
  • Review Date: June 20, 2013
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Polluting oceans and waterways threatens our planet. While the film places great value on friendship and loyalty, it also portrays bullying and tormenting others as more comic than hurtful.

Positive role models

Humans are uniformly depicted as mean, dishonest, and insensitive to the environment. The only parental figure is abusive to his children and cruel to everyone around him. Pup, the little shark-hero, is well-intentioned, hard-working, and brave. Julius, a large shark, is a bully. He uses his size and power to intimidate and torment smaller fish, in spite of that, his character is intended to be likeable and funny.

Violence

Scary, mutated sea creatures live in the murky depths of the sea with glowing eyes, eerie sounds, menacing movements; they unexpectedly appear and attack without provocation. A turtle struggles to escape from a plastic bag covering her head. Later she battles an evil serpent in a life-or-death struggle. The heroic fish are in danger from: a rapid-fire spear gun, careening vehicles, a giant hook, an army of mutant crabs, fire, and suffocation. A human father bellows, threatens, and hits his children (the blows are off camera; the sounds are heard).

Sex
Not applicable
Language

A father is verbally abusive to his boys: "idiots," "shut up," threatens with a throat-cutting hand gesture, "there'll be hell to pay."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that despite some bright, colorful animation, and a few appealing heroes, Sea Level is filled with dark images, eerie music, bullying used as humor, scarily-mutated sea creatures, an abusive human father, and characters constantly in fear for their lives. Viewers, especially young ones, will find the film's often disconnected structure and abrupt scene endings hard to follow. If Sea Level is meant as a humorous, cautionary tale about protecting the planet and its oceans, that message is as random and murky as the story itself and the few humorous sequences don't qualify it as watchable.

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What's the story?

In the animated SEA LEVEL, Poor Pup (voiced by Diong Chae Lian) is just a small bamboo shark who's discovered that his family's egg sacs have been taken by greedy poachers eager to command the shark fin market. Pup turns to his good friend Julius (Gavin Yap) to help him make a daring rescue. Unfortunately, Julius, a very big shark, is otherwise occupied. He's having too much fun tormenting the fish who wait on him fin-and-tail hoping he won't eat them. So Pup sets out on his own, making his way to land and humankind where he finds danger, treachery, adventure and, finally, the egg sacs! Meanwhile, back in the ocean, while a factory spews its ghastly refuse into the water, Pup's friends try to follow him. But it's not easy going for them, either. They have to fend off some mutant deep water monsters (a serpent and some very unpleasant insect-like crabs), some unusually ambitious chickens, and, what's more, face the likely prospect that they'll be unable to breathe when they reach the land. It takes some luck, some invention, and some fortitude, but finally, the loyal team brings everybody home.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Interesting, quirky, sometimes beautiful animation cannot save this ocean tale run amok. Sea Level often switches from light and frothy to dark and murky, with many unpleasant scenes likely to disturb little and/or sensitive kids, and turn off any viewer who values continuity and logic. A scene with delightfully comic chickens interacting with Julius (in a funny water-filled space capsule) might be followed by a scene in which a diabolical father beats his kids. Pup's attempts to rescue his "family" are intercut with (more accurately, interrupted by) other characters in thinly-related crises that are rarely resolved.

The film suggests that a factory's unceasing dumping of sludge and junk are wreaking havoc on this ocean setting, but the action on the screen never clearly connects the dots to the mutants deep below the surface. Sea Level plunges through very choppy waters and the few funny scenes are not worth the effort it takes to stay on course.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can discuss the film's statement: "The whole ocean's gonna be dark." How did the filmmakers try to show the effects of the factory polluting the water? Look up the word "mutation" and think about the creatures who live in the deeps of Sea Level's ocean.

  • Did you laugh when Julius chased, frightened, and threatened to eat the other fish as a joke? Is bullying ever funny? Does someone who laughs at a bully become part of the problem? Why?

  • This film jumps around a lot both in story line and in tone -- sometimes its tone is light-hearted and funny; sometimes it's dark and scary. Is this confusing or did you find it easy to follow?

Movie details

DVD release date:October 2, 2012
Cast:Diong Chae Lian, Gavin Yap
Director:Aun Hoe Goh
Studio:Silver Ant
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, Ocean creatures
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:scary situations, action, and brief mild language

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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