From the director of Moana, Big Hero Six, and Bolt comes a movie that isn’t quite as good as any of those but still lands a monster-sized dose of entertainment.
About a dude named Jacob Holland who hunts giant sea creatures for a living, The Sea Beast is a beautifully animated and boldly told story that plunges you into the sea to explore what dwells beneath. It sort of plays like a serious version of How to Train a Dragon, only with a bit more of a pirate vibe and lacking chubby, goofy Vikings.
Entertaining but really not at all funny, The Sea Beast holds your attention even if it dips its toes into the murky waters that lay between kid-friendly shores and darker, older-themed tides. Director Chris Williams’ picture is noticeably not-Disneyfied; the characters are grim, the action scenes intense (for an animated movie), and overall it offers up a more seriously told story that limits its appeal to older kids.
There are elements that hint at other intentions–when Jacob (voiced by Karl Urban) and stowaway Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) end up on a deserted island filled with adorable monster babies (and some not-so-adorable monsters), The Sea Beast shows glimmers of a softer, more toy-oriented side, and the movie’s second half unsurprisingly softens Jacob’s worldview–but overall The Sea Beast is a rather humorless affair.
The lack of humor isn’t a deal killer as the movie delivers some admirable animated action scenes and three-dimensional characters. Still, a little more comedy and cuteness would have gone a long way in expanding the movie’s audience (while she’s a little young to be the bellwether for what appeals to kids, my three-year-old, who enjoys adventure stories and monsters, determined the movie was too scary for her within the first couple of minutes, long before any sea beast actually appeared on screen).
By the time the third act rolls around, The Sea Beast begins to feel somewhat routine, too; we’ve seen versions of this story before. It never really loses its luster, but splashes short of greatness.
A worthwhile animated movie for older kids and families who enjoy semi-lighthearted adventures, The Sea Beast has a lot to love, even if you can see why this is a Netflix movie, not a Disney one.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.