The Reef

The Reef

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Underwater animation has hit the barrier, baby. You can’t go on Finding Nemo. It gets boring. Shark Tale was a rip, and so didn’t work. This one swims in the same sea. Is it time to come out of the water?

The Reef has a fresh breeze blowing through it. The characters are good and various. The animation has the mark of CGI. The plot is simple enough, but has too many sub plots. It’s just a pity it will be accused of copying the others, which it doesn’t really, but looks like it might.

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Pi (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr) is a little gold and blue thing, with huge eyes and a small mouth. He begins life in the polluted waters of Boston Harbour, where he befriends a baby porpoise (Trent Ford), with a Souff London accent. After his mom and pop are caught in The Net (last seen by Mumble in Happy Feet), the porpoises accompany him to the Caribbean, where he is introduced to a whole new life of clear water, strange and delectable fishes, as well as Troy (Donal Logue), the tiger shark bully, Nerissa (Rob Schneider), the ferocious old turtle, and Cordelia (Evan Rachel Wood), the glamorous pink angel fish (“She’s a model. She’s been on the cover of National Geographic. Twice!”).

Pi falls for Cordelia. Troy considers her to be his, not to eat, but to marry – that’s a tough one to get your head round. Pi challenges Troy for Cordelia and is trained in survival techniques by Nerissa. That, in a shell, is the plot, which is going to be hard for young kids to comprehend. Also, surrounding this simple concept, there are a bunch of goofy undersea characters, all of whom have back stories.

The dialogue races through Rasta rap, New York one-liners, cool dude slacker jibes and English rhyming couplets, much of which is smart and funny, probably more so for grown ups. The love interest may be a turn off, because Cordelia is a beautiful face, rather than an interesting fish, and Pi is smitten, which means he goes weak in the tail when he’s near her. Nerissa is the old timer, who has seen it all before (“We never go to Flat Bottom”, “What’s Flat Bottom?”, “The place where we never go”). Pi’s cousin Dylan (Andy Dick) says stuff like, “Don’t be negativi, bro” and “You’re 100% non dork, man”, but isn’t a great help.

Nothing feels stale on The Reef, which is odd, since you have been here before in your dreams and on screen, yet there is no obvious plagiarism. The dangers of industrial waste, over fishing and man’s detrimental influence on the natural world are mentioned in passing. Flat Bottom, for instance, is the open sea, as compared to the protected waters of the reef, where ships, dragging The Net, are never far away.

Even the mistakes have a certain style. And sentimentality, built in as part of every animator’s package, is never allowed to dominate. When you have farting merlin in the support team, it is difficult to take kissing fish seriously.

The film is better than you might expect but not as good as you want.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2007
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The Reef packshot
Goofy undersea characters watch as a brave little newbie challenges the tiger shark for the love of a beautiul angel fish.
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If you like this, try:

Finding Nemo