Getty Images1. Eh, turtles. I hope you'll forgive me when I admit that I don't find turtles among nature's most adorable creatures. They're scaly, they're slow, their mouths are creepy and they live longer than humans, which is honestly the one felony I can't forgive an animal for. Their entire lives are spent just swimming, eating, excreting and mating ... and they live almost twice as long as we do? Stop hogging all the good stuff, turtles. And don't get me started on your mutant, ninja sect.
2. "Turtle: The Incredible Journey" is a documentary about the quest turtles born on the coast of Florida spend their lives undertaking, crawling from the beach, swimming across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, then swimming back, giving birth, and repeating the process. This is far more harrowing than escaping the state of Florida should ever be, with the turtles facing predators, gulf streams, arctic storms and, apparently, a camerperson following their every move. The film describes the journey as taking about 20 years, round trip, but don't worry: The movie barely clocks in at 75 minutes. Of course, for turtles, 20 years might seem like 75 minutes. Stupid immortal turtles.
3. The primary conceit of "Turtle" is that we follow one turtle, in particularly, through her journey to the Caribbean and back. Now, assuming that the filmmakers didn't just luck out and find the one turtle out of 10,000 (an actual percentage given in the film) that survive the whole trip, we spend the movie watching a lot of stand-in turtles. It must have been sad to spend two years making a whole movie about turtles in which a large part of your job was watching turtles die. The movie plays fast and loose a lot like that, ramping up drama at the expense of perspective and objective reality. We see our turtle swimming in one direction, and then the film cuts to a shark moving the same direction, and we're meant to believe there's a chase occuring. But there isn't. We just have big (quite loud, come to remember it) musical cues that Something Scary Is Happening. But I'm not sure something scary was actually happening, at least in the scenes that they shot.
4. This is all underscored by some truly grating, cloying narration by Miranda Richardson, who, to be fair, keeps having to wrestle with some gnarled lines like "the shark has become that most rare of beings: A friend." The film almost seems like a long demo reel for director Nick Stringer, who, not surprisingly, has worked almost exclusively with wildlife documentaries. He does a professional job of amping up the theatrics, turning up the volume and tension like he's filming a Michael Mann action scene. He uses a lot of narrative shortcuts to cheat, giving us a linear story when there wasn't necessarily one there, but I suppose for that we should be grateful: Otherwise, this documentary would be 20 years long, and feature a shocking number of dead turtles.
5. This is not a cold-cruelty-of-nature Werner Herzog documentary. This is a happy, inspirational story about turtles begetting other turtles and the circle of life and all that. And as a lazy Sunday afternoon, it's-raining-I'm-not-going-anywhere Discovery Channel doc, it would easily serve that purpose. But the bar is higher for movies, where we start questioning some of the inconsistencies and the noises are so loud and Miranda Richardson won't stop talking about the "invisible highways of the sea." This is standard-issue TV doc stuff geeked up to feature length and spectacle. Like, 9,999 of the 10,000 turtles who make this incredible journey every year, it doesn't quite survive the trip. Needs more mutants and ninjas, I think.