Turtle: The Incredible Journey

Educational but slow docu may not keep kids' interest.
  • Review Date: June 27, 2011
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 80 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn a great deal about the life cycle of the loggerhead turtle, from how it hatches in the sand to its dangerous trip just to reach the ocean, to its "incredible journey" around the entire North Atlantic. It's an inspiring, death-defying story, and kids will know exactly how resilient sea turtles are when they're done with the documentary. Many statistics are mentioned at length: 2 million loggerhead hatchlings are born each year on Florida beaches, turtles lay about 100 eggs at a time, only 1 in 10,000 loggerheads will reach adulthood.

Positive messages

Turtles must overcome grim odds to complete their migratory journey. Humans are partly to blame for the pollution in the oceans; all of our garbage threatens sea animals' lives, so we must do our part to minimize our impact.

Positive role models
Not applicable
Violence & scariness

In a several scenes, the turtle's life is threatened -- by hungry crabs, predatory birds, and the dangers of the ocean (including a huge cargo ship) -- but it's always safe.

Sexy stuff

Female and male turtle meet at the end to mate, but it's not discussed at length.

Not applicable

One of the companies distributing the movie is a division of SeaWorld, and the movie's release coincided with the launch of a new turtle-themed attraction at the company's San Diego theme park.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this nature documentary follows one little loggerhead turtle as she makes her arduous migratory journey across the Gulf Stream and around the North Atlantic. There's nothing particularly disturbing in the film, though one early scene does include a tense sequence in which the baby turtle attempts to reach the ocean despite threats from hungry crabs and predatory birds. Nothing ends up happening to "our" turtle, but we do learn how few of them actually make it to adulthood. This is the rare case of a movie being more educational than entertaining, and it might not hold young kids' interest for the complete runtime.

What's the story?

Narrated by Miranda Richardson, this wildlife documentary chronicles THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY of the loggerhead turtle, from tiny hatchling to sea voyager to full adult who will make the return trip back to her ancestral home on the beaches on Florida. As viewers learn early on, only one in every 10,000 turtles will ever make it to adulthood; but against all odds, this "little turtle that could" weathers every potential threat -- other animals, cargo ships, hunger -- to undergo one of the animal kingdom's longest migrations.

Is it any good?


Filmmakers who direct animal documentaries must balance the need to show the natural world as it unfolds in front of the camera with the desire to create a more human-like drama for the sake of entertainment. Unfortunately, Turtle swings a little too far in the latter direction, with overwrought narration. There also isn't that much inherent tension. It's not that "our" turtle doesn't face any pulse-quickening moments, but after her initial race to the ocean, there's just not that much going on (and if she had been one of thousands of unlucky turtles, obviously there would be no story).

The visuals are beautiful, but the story feels about half an hour too long. And while the swelling score and intense voice over try to make every scene feel significant, unless you (or your kid) is a passionate turtle lover, you may begin to wonder where you've stashed your copy of March of the Penguins.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether a nature documentary about an individual animal can be as interesting as a film that follows groups of the same animal or different species. Which do you prefer?

  • How do human actions affect the life of the loggerhead turtles? What can we do to minimize our impact on the sea?

  • What's the movie's environmental message? How does it appear in the film?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 24, 2011
DVD release date:November 15, 2011
Cast:Miranda Richardson
Director:Nick Stringer
Studio:Hannover House
Topics:Ocean creatures, Science and nature
Run time:80 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of Turtle: The Incredible Journey was written by

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Learning ratings

  • 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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Parent Written byLaurarob January 7, 2012
age 9+

Unacceptably scary

Our kids, ages 6 and 9, only made it half an hour into this movie because they became so upset. They, and we, couldn't believe it was rated G, and our older daughter said it was scarier than any movie she'd seen. Contrary to showing "nothing particularly disturbing," the film is a highly dramatized, frightening, up-close-and-personal view of the many perils of turtles' young lives. The photography/videography was exceptional and stunning, but it also made every situation so realistic that it was very frightening for our kids. The film's voiceover and music intentionally heightened the suspense and drama of every dangerous scenario, particularly a scene in which a cargo ship is seen barreling down on the baby turtle and other creatures. With a G rating, I was floored and distressed as a parent when the ship in fact ran over the turtle's seaweed home, killing all the animals but the turtle. (This is all shown in detail.) The baby turtle is anthropomorphosized so that kids feel the fear of the baby turtle, who is then alone and lost. In the next scene, you see an awful image of a dead baby turtle. Our kids love nature movies (March of the Penguins, Oceans, Born to Be Wild, etc.), and this movie was substantially more violent and frightening than anything in those films. Very distressing and disappointing. It's an accurate depiction of nature, to be sure, but it's not for young kids. And, again, that's based only on the first painful half-hour, as our kids couldn't tolerate continuing even though they knew the turtle would survive in the end.
What other families should know
Educational value
Too much violence
Adult Written byMinime77 June 16, 2014
age 4+

4 only watching with parent. Loved it, but only with watching it with parent, otherwise too much

Of course, parts are scary, I mean the dead turtle was scary, the dad seahorse and when the crap caught the baby turtles to eat them. I watched it with my 3 y old who loved it, but spoke the next day twice about the poor sea horse whos life ended being to close to the big ship. We watched it on the laptop, so the picture was smaller than on a tv and we talked a lot, as my lil one hardly speaks English, so I translated her a lot and we talked a lot about it, which made the movie softer (I didnt made up things as I thought to let her know the truth tho). We dont watch much tv, so it took us two evenings to watch it, but my 3,5 y old loved it and wanted to play the next day all the time being a baby turle coming out of her egg and someone else has to be a bird. But again, with understanding everything they say, on a big tv and alone, I wouldnt let a 3y old watch it. Btw, the most scary parts are really only the ones already mentioned, the last half is smoother, but still.
Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2012
age 5+

Educating and great for kids

I recommended this movie about sea life. If you love to learn about the ocean watch this movie.
What other families should know
Educational value


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