Unlike a majority of the press, I was in the minority who actually found the original The Reef (which was based on a 2006 South Korea film, Shark Bait). Maybe because even the major studios haven’t fully convinced me that underwater CG films are their strongest (Pixar’s Finding Nemo and DreamWorks’ Shark Tale for example) or maybe it’s because the grade B attempts (Dolphin: The Story of a Dreamer, Sea Level & Legend of the Sea to mention a few) have demonstrated just how bad it can get… All I can say is that considering Shark Bait wasn’t even designed to be a North American release, the finished product that was The Reef managed to deliver.
The Reef 2: High Tide went about things a little bit differently: This time it wasn’t just an English script dubbed atop a foreign film but rather a piece designed from the onset to serve as a direct sequel to The Reef. It was animated again in South Korea and released to American audiences in October of 2012.
The film makes a rather unfortunate assumption that you’ve seen The Reef and are quite familiar with the events that unfolded. If you are not, the rather straight forward narrative and flow of this one is easy enough for even a young child to follow though do expect many references to events that took place in the original. At its core The Reef 2 is simply a revenge story. The bully shark of the original film (who gets his tail handed to him in the end) decides it’s time to pay back the occupants of the reef; particularly the small fish Pi who gave him the business.
Oddly enough, though rumors abound that suggest the sequel had a bigger budget than the original film, a majority of the solid vocal cast was swapped out this time around. Gone is Freddy Prinze Jr. as Pi and in his place Drake Bell, Evan Rachel Wood goes bye-bye for Busy Phillips as Cordelia, Fran Drescher gets replaced by an impersonator for the role of Pearl and John Rhys-Davies is MIA entirely. Fortunately Donal Logue returns as the villainous shark Troy as does Andy Dick as a bit part and Rob Schneider as the wise (and surprisingly non-comedic) sage sea-turtle Nerissa. About the biggest disappointment comes in the form of new character Ronny as Jamie Kennedy seems to have been determined to create the most annoying voice humanly possible for the character.
Pacing is pretty decent and kids will surely delight in the beautiful color pallet. The film’s textures look surprisingly decent, especially on the high definition Blu version. Parents should certainly appreciate the fact that there is a (oft times heavy handed) lesson present and the values of team work, believing in one’s self and smaller doesn’t necessarily mean weaker are all reoccurring themes here.
Adults expecting the type of cleverness studios like Pixar have been spoiling us with for the past 20-years will be slightly disappointed with the fairly straight forward nature of the plot. To put it another way, The Reef 2 doesn’t really commit any major crimes of storytelling so much as it doesn’t present anything particularly new or thought-provoking to the formula either. The producers of this one were clearly interested in playing it safe and simply continuing on with the dynamic established in the first film rather than getting fancy and risking failure.
In all kids will likely enjoy this colorful romp and decent vocal performance. The plot, though predictable and formulaic, is certainly passable and may even elicit a smile or two from the adults being forced to watch it over and over. IMDB users collectively rated the first film a 4.2 (out of ten) and this a 3.0 at the writing of this review. Perhaps a bit harsh, the comparison is fairly indicative of the lack of originality or cleverness found in this one. In short you can do better if a good CG romp is in order but as I attest in the beginning of this review, you can certainly do worse!