Movie Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Movie Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

by Josh Larsen
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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

  • MPAA Rating: G
  • Running Time: 127 minutes
  • Recommended for ages 7+

Quick Take: The 1954 special-effects marvel will still entertain young eyes in present day.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a bloated, frequently silly adventure epic, yet it conjured up two images that have embedded themselves in the minds of generations of moviegoers: the Nautilus -- the sleek, glowing submarine of underwater explorer Captain Nemo (James Mason) -- and the giant squid that attacks it.

In 1954, Leagues was a special-effects marvel -- from the menacing tentacles of that squid to the extensive underwater photography -- and the movie's particular brand of aquatic magic still holds up today.

Douglas' antics may make you cringe -- he's essentially playing Popeye the Sailor Man -- but Mason lends the proceedings a certain sense of gravity. When he expounds upon Nemo's bizarre personal philosophy -- a combination of idealistic pacifism and suicidal fatalism -- he sounds like a fitting cult leader for a movie that came out as the Cold War began in earnest.

Kids Will Like:

Nemo's pet seal, which shares a handful of scenes with Douglas and comes off as the far more endearing performer.

Parents Will Like:

Nemo's secret hideout, an atoll that could easily have served as the inspiration for the villain's lair in the first James Bond film, Dr. No.

Heads Up:

Though none of it is graphic, there is a lot of violence, from the cannibals and squid to a climactic battle between Nemo's men and government soldiers who ambush him at his hideout. Earlier, while recounting his past, Nemo refers to men who "tortured my wife and young son to death."

Own It?

Yes. Though it's long, the movie's many adventures are clearly segmented and suited to repeat viewings. Kids can enjoy a cannibal attack one day, a squid attack the next.

 

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