If you're of a certain age, Disneynature's "Oceans" may bring back memories of those grade-school rainy days when Miss Smith would dim the lights, hoist a reel on the projector and show a short primer on wildlife. You probably didn't learn much about phyla or genera; a little respect for nature was valuable enough.
Those creaky old movies were probably produced by Disney, whose "True-Life Adventures" shorts won several Oscars between 1948 and 1960. Last year the studio re-entered the documentary business in earnest with Disneynature's debut film, "Earth." Both movies' release dates have coincided with Earth Day to raise ecological awareness.
"Oceans" feels almost like a time capsule from 1960. It follows several time-honored traditions of nature documentaries: astounding photography, a famous narrator (Pierce Brosnan) and at least one French guy (the directors are Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud). The movie also sticks to safe generalities, ignoring hot-button issues like whaling and global warming. Pollution gets barely a nod; the fishing industry gets a light knuckle-rap.
Even plain old information is in short supply. We see orcas in a feeding frenzy, but on what? Sea lions emit distinctive barks, but why? An enthrallingly bizarre fish sprouts legs - name, please? Instead, the script offers misty poetry ("To really know the ocean, you have to live it") and unimpressive conclusions ("One generation follows the next").
Very young children who haven't been exposed to Marlon Perkins, Jacques Cousteau and Steve Irwin may find "Oceans" a good starting point. (It's also free of gore, even when those frisky sea lions become lunch.) Grown-ups, however, may feel some nostalgia for the days when they could lay their heads on their school desks and sleep.