Contrary to how it may seem at times, I hate giving overly negative reviews. Movies, like any form of art, are often great labors of love: The result of love, sweat, tears and toil. But at the same time, to hold back and try to list only a project’s redeeming qualities because of this fact does you absolutely no good when trying to decide if a film is worthy of your collection, your time or even a rental.
Enter 2012’s Legend of the Sea. How a project in this state of disarray manages to make it to market is truly beyond me; especially to a market so competitive that industry giants like Disney (Pixar), DreamWorks and Sony Pictures invest hundreds of millions into a single film and still have no guarantee they’ll break even. Yet somehow Legend of the Sea, through Phase 4 Films, has managed to occupy shelves and Red Box kiosk space right next to Finding Nemo and A Shark Tale, vying for your dollars.
Before determining if this one is right for you, let’s take a look at the plot and some of the hard facts first. Phase 4 Films has created an entire catalog of direct-to-dvd computer animated feature films that begin life as foreign theatrical pieces that are then redubbed in English. In this case the source material comes in the form of a 2007 Singapore movie of the same name made by Cubix International. It was rated G originally and while the American version is unrated, it would likely retain the rating. It comes in at a runtime of 76-minutes and features the voice of Rob Schneider.
The plot, while undoubtedly far less coherent in action than it will appear in this summary, goes like this: Draco the Little Dragon Prince, son and heir to the throne of the Dragon King, is a playful and irresponsible lad. Hoping to get away from his life of lessons and schooling, he grabs the Luminous Pearl, the ruler's treasure and source of power, so as to initiate a game of “pearl ball” with pals Sam Squid and Ping Puffer.
Ruining an otherwise lovely day of theft and irresponsibility; the threesome becomes entangled with the evil 3-legged octopus (triopus?) Ocho, archenemy of the dragons, who just so happens to be scheming (aloud at that) her plans to get a hold of the elusive Pearl.
Capturing Draco, Ocho decides to ransom the Dragon King on some “you give me the pearl for the safe return of your son” action. But let’s not forget that Draco stole the very pearl she’s lusting after and the Dragon King has no idea where it went. Add in a bunch of clueless lackeys, annoying voices, and animation that gets absolutely smoked by the very worst of broadcast television standards and you start to understand what’s happening here.
I mentioned above that the piece was originally designed for Singaporean audiences and hence recorded in Mandarin Chinese and hence the mouth flaps line up to an English vocal track with all of the subtlety of a vintage king-fu movie. Add to this the natural mis-timing that accompanies a foreign film adapted to western audiences (think scenes that run abnormally long and muddled plot points) and things start to get ugly really fast. As if this all weren’t enough, the onscreen antics are absolutely driven into redundancy- we witness the villain plotting on the pearl, are told by a narrator that she’s plotting on the pearl, hear that she’s plotting on the pearl by her own confessional dialog only to have one of her lackeys ask her if she’s plotting on the pearl and then have her answer that she is indeed plotting on the pearl.
This cycle turns what should be quick and painless sequences into absolute torture-fests for adult viewers. Young children may be able to overlook this redundancy but everyone else is going to lose patience within the first few moments of what will undoubtedly feel like the longest hour and 16-minutes in history. The truth of the matter is the whole of this story could have been told in a 10-minute animated short.
Even the visuals offer little in the way of distractions. Textures are jagged and flat, backgrounds are simple and lifeless. Never does one get the feeling that the film is taking place underwater. $3.7 million dollars in 2007 should theoretically have resulted in something better than this! Perhaps a majority of the budget went to paying the vocal cast. One gets the distinct feeling Rob Schneider did what he could but all comedic genius in the world couldn’t salvage what essentially boils down to a kindergarten-era script.
In all, it is nearly impossible to recommend this film to anyone outside of an aspiring computer animator or film student hoping to study what to steer clear of in future projects. I knew going into this film that it had received an endless stream of negative reviews, have done nearly everything in Phase 4’s catalog (check my other reviews) and literally went in with low expectations and still found this one nearly unwatchable.