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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Review: 'Under the Sea 3-D'

Having already seen "Deep Sea 3-D" and "Into the Deep 3-D," you could be forgiven for thinking that Imax has gone to the water well once too often with its latest offering, "Under the Sea 3-D." But practice has delivered something close to perfection as this new film offers a startling experience that takes you down into the Great Barrier Reef without the expense, hypothermia or oxygen tanks.

Previous Imax underwater entries dove into the waters off the Americas. Here, veteran underwater movie director Howard Hall heads to the Southern Hemisphere, lugging the bulky Imax cameras to the Reef and Indonesia's Coral Triangle.

Hall and his crew spent more than 350 hours underwater and 110 days at sea to capture a mere 10 hours of raw footage. Looking at the exquisite images, though, is to understand how quality trumps quantity when it comes to this format.

The film caters some to the kiddie crowd, emphasizing freaky-looking fish, poisonous creatures and, of course, the great white shark. There's also an educational component to the proceedings, with narrator Jim Carrey gently imparting the consequences of climate change and ocean acidification. The message: "Every animal depends on another."

Carrey is not Morgan Freeman, which, given the excessive use of Freeman's voice-overs these days, may not be such a bad thing. And, really, Carrey could have just saved his breath most of the time. The vivid beauty on display here in Hall's images offers living proof of the need to treasure and protect ocean life. Watching green sea turtles frolic and the delicate, leafy sea dragons float in search of dinner provides enough beauty and bliss to last a month of Sundays.

The movie's cameras round up appropriate suspects for the 3-D format. Venomous sea snakes slither and cascading catfish swarm toward the camera while feeding in the silt. But the film's real stars are the hovering, color-changing cuttlefish, a squid-like marine mollusk that would have given H.G. Wells a nightmare or three. Hall captures their female-dominated mating dances (scored to the inspired choice of Doris Day singing "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps") and their amazingly efficient hunting technique, which ends with a lightning-fast tentacle zapping its prey.

The cuttlefish live all of two years. Their lives are over before they know it, as is this too-brief film, which is as intimate and enjoyable as anything Imax has done in 3-D.

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