Sammys-Great-Escape-PosterThere’s been no shortage of underwater-set animated adventures in the past, and they’ve experienced varying levels of success. The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Shark Tale and Happy Feet all  immediately come to mind, but the greatest feat that Sammy’s Great Escape pulls of is managing to somehow be derivative of just about all of them.

The Belgian production actually serves as a sequel to 2010’s A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures, in which two young turtles, Sammy and Ray, get into a variety of japes across the ocean at various stages of their life. That original film managed to attract a voice cast for its English-dubbed version which included Dominic Cooper and Gemma Arterton, but there are no such celeb voices on show this time around.

The sequel picks up where the original left off, with Sammy and Ray now elderly and surrounded by grandchildren. Two of those grandchildren, Ricky and Ella, are the turtles you’ve seen on the poster, but despite those two getting brought along for this adventure the focus is bizarrely still on the two old-timers. They’ve been captured and put into a futuristic under-sea aquarium, and as the title suggests Sammy immediately sets about planning their great escape.

So the whole film essentially plays out like an expanded version of Nemo’s fish tank escape from the entirely superior Finding Nemo – a film which coincidentally is getting a 3D re-release next month. The aquarium setting also gives the animators the opportunity to introduce a whole host of wacky new characters, only one of whom (a blowfish) shows any degree of visual invention. By and large the animation is second rate though, and in a half-term week in which it will play alongside Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, it’s lack of cinematic quality is put into sharp focus.

The plot’s not a lot better either. Scenes of mild threat are followed by scenes of dull conversation, ad infinitum. There are far better alternatives to distract your kids with during the school holiday, and if they’ve already seen the cinematic alternatives then why not visit a real aquarium instead, because this is a turtle waste of time.