Journey to the South Pacific goes heavy on the eye candy

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A documentary by Stephen Judson and Greg MacGillivray. Rated G. Now playing

What adults want in an IMAX film like this is ocean porn. And they get it—both the aerial and underwater ocean shots are gorgeous.

But because this film is aimed at kids, it also contains a story, and that story is both treacly and bizarrely detached.

We follow Jawi, a 13-year-old boy who’s picked to spend a summer on an educational boat that cruises his West Papua islands. He learns stuff about different tropical sea creatures along the way, as narrator Cate Blanchett gently pushes the film’s conservation message.

(Adults will notice neither nuance nor political reality in this message, which basically suggests local fisherman leave some fish behind and poachers stop poaching.)

Jawi could be an interesting kid, but we don’t get to care about him because we never see him speak. He’s shot at a distance and his thoughts are narrated in a way that makes you wonder if that’s the real Jawi speaking, or some Dutch-accented kid reading a script, or maybe Blanchett again?

The film does a better job at bringing the sea creatures to life, introducing us to a toothless, shy sea turtle and a wonderfully named orangutan crab that deserves its own Disney movie. One brief, glorious scene has different fish “singing” melodies that appear to go pitch-perfectly with the way their mouths open and close. Jawi swimming with a whale shark also gives you that magical, Omnimax feeling.

Just tune out his thoughts and enjoy these money shots.

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