In a society in which Minions: The Rise of Gru has taken over the youngest minds while simultaneously managing to somehow make Twitter a worse place, the divide of quality in kids’ movies becomes all too clear. With the decline of Pixar and the relatively stagnant Dreamworks Studio, Laika Studios seems to be the only consistent producer of thought-provoking, morally edifying, and numbingly entertaining movies—the trifecta that all great kids’ movies manage. (I wonder how successful an amoral children’s movie could be?) From time to time, exceptions are made to this rule and a great “family-friendly” animated movie will originate from a major corporate studio or as a streaming original, like Netflix’s Klaus.
Directed by the Disney veteran Chris Williams, The Sea Beast, Netflix’s return to animation, goes for the trifecta… and successfully hits the dart board, but it’s no bullseye. Two of the three come close to the inner circle, while the third aims for the bullseye but fails to pierce the cork and aborts to the sticky floor. That dart is the pedagogical one.
In a plot that’s eager and loud in its reminiscence of Moby Dick and How to Train Your Dragon, the society of the Three Bridges is stuck in perpetual war with the beasts of the sea—and the freelance Hunters of the sea are the martyrs upon which the myth of the empire is built. The flagship “The Inevitable” and its Captain Crow (Jared Harris) are soon to be replaced by a governmental operation, the gold-studded and canon-riddled “Imperator.” If the latter brings the great Red Bluster to the monarchs before the former, The Inevitable will lose its governmental support. Crow and his crew must face off and defeat the big-bad government in this adventure task. But much like in the superior How to Train Your Dragon, the war is a farce that perpetuates the ruling class status quo: the beast aren’t really beasts, and humans and sea-monsters can co-exist just like humans and any other aquatic lifeform.
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