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"Under The Sea 3D" ***1/2 (35 minutes)

Monday February 9, 2009

Temporarily off of the Academy Award trail to take in the 3rd in this underwater IMAX nature series. I didn't see the first two, "Deep Sea 3D" (made in 2006 and is the second highest grossing IMAX 3D film) or "Into The Deep 3D", so I don't have them to compare. However, on its own, this particular dip into the ocean is spectacular-especially in the 3D format.

In the confident hands of veteran underwater documentary director, Howard Hall, the locales he visits are concentrated in the Coral Reef Triangle (East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Solomon Islands) and The Great Barrier Reef ( off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia). There you are introduced to a myriad of unusual South Pacific marine life-and extremely up close and personal.

I was never particularly enthralled by the visuals of 2D underwater photography. However, in 3D, the effect is startling and immediate. You might actually jump out of your seat at the approaching school of sea snakes as they appear to head out of the screen into your face. Or marvel at the shots of sea turtles munching on a magnificent jellyfish. A number of segments are devoted to cuttlefish which have amazing camouflage capabilities and mating rituals. These are just a few of the exotic creatures and beautiful coral reef images that you will experience over the 35 quick minutes. You will actual crave for more.

The capable minimal, yet appealing, narration by Jim Carrey is handled with aplomb and should be understood by even the youngest audience members. And the soundtrack often changes to match the visuals-such as the graceful meanderings of a colony of sea eels as they anchor themselves in the sand and seem to be swaying to the music. And what would be more appropriate then a version of The Beatles' "Octopus's Garden" playing over the closing credits featuring a lovable swarm of sea lions?

Of course, there is the requisite reference or two to the negative ecological impact that the environment is having on the coral reefs and the delicate balance that may be impacted. But the points are made without the preaching and extensive gloom & doom dialogue of other more recent, similar docs.

The film will be appearing in select IMAX theaters over the coming months. This is the closest you'll ever get to these creatures without getting wet or decompressed!

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