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Film review: 'Deep Blue' too gory for children

DEEP BLUE — ** 1/2 — Documentary about underwater life forms; narrated by Pierce Brosnan; rated G (animal violence, brief gore).

"Deep Blue" saves its deepest (literally) explorations for nearly the end. Cameras take audiences to the miles-deep Marianas Trench, where translucent creatures pulse with bursts and flashes of light that make them appear more like extraterrestrial life forms than Earthbound ones.

That scene goes by much too quickly, as do most of the scenes in this gorgeous-looking nature documentary, which tries to encompass all aspects of undersea — and in a couple of cases, above-sea — life.

Unfortunately, the film tries to say too much, and as a result ends up saying nothing. Also, this G-rated film contains scenes of animal attacks that are much too intense for young audiences and call into question whether it should have received PG-13 or PG instead. (Apparently the MPAA's rules on violence don't count when the "characters" are animals.)

"Deep Blue" is essentially a "greatest-hits" collection of scenes from the British television miniseries "Blue Planet," which was shown on the Discovery Channel. The opening sequence shows a playful school of dolphins performing underwater "gymnastics."

But it's not all fun and games. We also witness a "feeding frenzy," as dolphins, sharks, sea lions and albatrosses prey upon sardines and mackerel, which are evidently on the bottom of the undersea food chain.

Even more startling is a sequence in which killer whales attack young sea lions and then "play" with their victims. (One whale launches an unfortunate sea lion several hundred feet with a quick flick of its tale.)

Judging by narrator Pierce Brosnan's quick aside about the senseless killing of blue whales, the film was apparently intended as an environmental statement.

But it doesn't have nearly the emotional impact of the much-better animal documentary out there right now, "March of the Penguins." ("Deep's" brief scene in Antarctica, also looking at those all-too-human emperor penguins, should have been cut out to avoid the inevitable comparisons.)

Still, for all its flaws, the film looks terrific. The images of a school of fish moving in concert, in an underwater ballet, as they attempt to elude predators is eerily beautiful.

"Deep Blue" is rated G but does contain scenes of animal violence (killer whale and other predatory animal attacks), as well as brief gore. Running time: 83 minutes.