A pleasantly innocuous family pic about a teenage boy who turns into a seal whenever he’s in the water, “Selkie” is a small-scale Aussie film that will face the marketing challenge of competing over Easter with higher-profile American pics. It should have a healthy ancillary life, however, and could find shelf space anywhere in the world.
After a brief, rather pointless prologue in Scotland, 16-year-old Jamie Duncan (Shimon Moore), his marine-scientist mother, Iona (Celine O’Leary), his grandfather, Malcolm (Bryan Marshall), and his kid sister, Alison (Mariana Rego) , arrive on Jackson Island, where Mom is to head up a research facility. While she’s occupied tagging dolphins with radio transmitters and attempting to deal with her grumpy, obstructive deputy (Edmund Pegge) and a nasty local tuna fisherman (Michael Habib), Jamie checks out the talent at his new school and quickly spots Samantha (Chelsea Bruland), a girl with whom he shares a lot of common interests.
But it’s a bit embarrassing when Jamie dives into the sea to rescue Sam after she falls in the water: He turns into a seal. As his granddad explains, he’s a selkie — half-human, half-seal — which explains his webbed hands, unnoticed until now.
Jamie doesn’t want to be a selkie and is determined to find the secret spell that will make him all boy. During his investigations, he encounters Loopy Laura (Elspeth Ballantyne), an eccentric old dame who haunts the seafront and who wants to be a seal.
“Selkie” is pleasant enough but not sufficiently muscular to grab the attention of auds other than small fry. Pic is a bit of a disappointment coming from director Donald Crombie, who, 25 years ago, was one of the leading lights of the Oz film industry (“Caddie,” “Cathy’s Child”).
Newcomers Moore and Bruland are attractive young leads, but the adult actors don’t add much. The boy-into-seal effects are on the cheesy side, and, in several sequences, the seal itself looks as fake as the shark in “Jaws.” Kids won’t notice, but their older siblings will be unimpressed. Other tech credits are functional.