24 March 2007 | dbborroughs
Amusing dialog and great performances lift up a mess of a movie that's mostly stitched together from pieces seemingly stolen from other movies
The Reef (aka Shark-bait) is a(n occasionally watchable) mess of a movie. The plot of the film has Pi, a fish from Boston Harbor fleeing south to "The Reef" to find his aunt after his parents are scooped up in a fishing net. Once on the reef he falls for the most beautiful girl in the area and runs a foul of a shark.
The film doesn't so much plagiarize Finding Nemo (which is sort of reversed here) and the other animated films from the last few years as rip them apart and stitches them together into a movie so unoriginal you'll swear you've seen it before. It's a jaw dropping in its unoriginality. There's a drinking game in this movie where you take a drink every time you spot a riff from some other movie. I'd love to see someone take the film and annotate it so that there is a list of steals.
The character designs run the gamut from really good to what were they thinking. The look of the girl fish for example is quite lovely, the design for Pi's "psychic" aunt is amusing, while the look of the three eyed friend of Pi's parents back in Boston is clichéd but very funny. On the other hand characters like the shark and the old timers are blocky and awful. The backgrounds are an odd mix. Some are fantastically detailed settings like Pi's aunt's home or the pirate ship which look great; on the other hand there is the nothingness of the open ocean (and I do mean nothingness), with the characters seeming to hang all alone in a world that's just the blank sea. (while I understand that's probably what it would look like in the ocean, its really dull to look at on the big screen). The some of the animation is lacking any sort of finished quality appearing as what looks like a half step up from test footage. Its as if they had an incomplete staff of animators so they could only really finish bits of the animation.
Oddly the dialog seems much better than the Frankenstein like plot. To be certain many of the jokes have been lifted from elsewhere and you will find yourself saying the punchlines before the characters do, but there's a good chance that you'll still be amused thanks to the work of people like Fran Drescher, John Rhys-Davies and R Lee Ermey who take their stock characters and turn them into something more than a wooden prop.
Its oddly amusing at times in a weird sort of way, but I can't recommend you actually pay to see this movie. To be certain this is the sort of movie you'll watch a couple of times on cable but that doesn't mean its worth your hard earned money. Its one of those bad movies that you find yourself enjoying on TV simply because its not as bad as your other choices and because its not really costing you anything.
Trust me this is a cable movie....