Seal Team (Netflix) is quickly winnowing its way into the Netflix Top 10. There are laughs along the way and a few lessons learned as we take a trip under the sea with Quinn the seal and his team of intrepid flippered friends. They’re tasked with facing down a grip of toothy shark meanies and inspiring their seal community to quit all that lying around on the rocks.
SEAL TEAM: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: In Seal Team, Jessie T. Usher (A-Train/Reggie Franklin from The Boys) is Quinn, a seal who is prone to utilizing his youthful recklessness in the never-ending search for food. He’s aware of the sharks that operate in the area of Seal Island, where he lives with his colony, but unlike most of the community, he’s unwilling to accept dusty, crusty barnacles as a lasting food source. Many of the seals have done this in a bid for self-preservation – the sharks are a menace, and it’s better to stay alive than become another unfortunate contributor to the food chain. But not Quinn, and especially not after a mean, scheming local shark heavy named Grimes (Matthew Rhys) chows down on his TBFITEO (or “best friend in the entire ocean”) Benji (Julian Smith).
If you’re gonna go up against the sharks, you gotta be brave and you gotta be crazy. But you’re also gonna need a team and training. Quinn recruits a megalomaniac former performing seal named The Great Geraldo (Patrick Warburton) and his space case pal Beth (Kristen Schaal), and they report for duty to Claggart (J.K. Simmons), a disgraced member of the HMMF (Hydro-Marine-Military-Force) whose own team was disbanded years before when an undersea mine defusing mission went horribly wrong. Claggart whips his new troops into shape during a training sequence right out of your typical action movie, and also reconnects with his old HMMF buddy, weapons and tech whiz Switch (Sharlto Copely). Switch’s shark-fighting gizmos include puffer fish mines, crab pistols, a barracuda bazooka, and electric eels fired from a super soaker. There’s also the “octo-suit,” an active camo outfit built from bioluminescent octopus babies. Because of course there is.
It’s almost time for the big sardine run, the annual event the hungry seal community relies on to survive. And Grimes, impatient with the newfangled Seal Team’s attacks on his fellow sharks, has targeted the sardine glut as the opportunity he needs to eliminate the seals once and for all. Quinn, Claggart, and the team gear up for the showdown, ready to get down with some flipper-to-flipper combat. Can their resourcefulness, bravery, teamwork, and seal savvy save the day? Hopefully! But they better be ready for Grimes’ secret weapon, which is an actual shark with a frickin’ laser beam on its head.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of? The penguin characters from Madagascar come to mind here, especially Skipper (Tom McGrath), gadget guy Kowalski, and explosives whiz Rico. Seal Team co-director Greig Cameron is also a writer on Supa Strikas (available in the US on Pluto and Peacock), the animated adventures of a pan-African soccer team.
Performance Worth Watching: With his wide moon face, off-kilter personality, and gaping, plankton-consuming maw, Dave the Basking Shark (played with scene-stealing relish by voice actor Matthew Mercer) is a formidable and formidably goofy presence who becomes a kind of Trojan Horse ally for the Seal Team.
Memorable Dialogue: “I’m gonna get us some food. All kinds of shipwrecks around here, right? And humans never go anywhere without snacks.” It’s true that humans don’t go anywhere without snacks, but getting some grub in these waters isn’t as easy as Quinn makes it out to be. He and Benji overturn a rusty sardine can, only to discover a chippy sand crab inside brandishing a butterfly knife. “Wow! This is a rough part of the ocean.”
Sex and Skin: What? Get out of here.
Our Take: There’s a good bit of inspired voice casting in Seal Team. J.K. Simmons, the hardest working man on land or sea, imbues Claggart with the saltiness of a Marine drill sergeant mixed with the jaundiced view of an old warhorse. Matthew Rhys, whose voice acting also graces The Owl House on Disney Channel and BoJack Horseman, brings a villainous seeth to Grimes. And there are choice supporting turns from Dolph Lundgren as Dolph (get it?), a cigar-chomping former member of the HMMF with showbiz aspirations, Kate Micucci as a blabbering sea bird named Diving Dee, and – wait for it – Seal as the seals’ resident entertainer, Seal Seal. When Quinn tells the group about his far-fetched plan to face down the sharks and save the colony, it’s during Seal’s nightly performance. “Quinn is never gonna survive…because he’s a little crazy…”
Seal Team also delights in the kind of sight gags that look beyond cartoon kids’ fare. The contrazoom employed, close-up on Quinn, as he discovers the sharks have gotten Benji is right out of director James Gunn’s bag of tricks on the Guardians of the Galaxy films. And references to Jaws would be natural for any cartoon featuring sharks, but Seal Team manages to keep the two times it does it fresh and full of referential as well as animated vigor. The animation is also clean and inviting throughout Seal Team, with the sharks gliding cooly through the cartoon deep and the seals using their dexterity to outwit their larger toothy foes, flipping about through animated sea greenery, hopping around on the decks of shipwrecks, and creeping stealthily through seaweedy hollows.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Seal Team has laughs a-plenty and a sense of good natured camaraderie in its heart, even when those scheming, hungry sharks are trying their darndest to gobble up the hapless seals.