Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Reef 2: High Tide

What I Was Expecting / What I Knew Going In

I was under the impression that The Reef was one of those fake movies that comes out like 2-3 days after the real thing is released.  Wasn't it a poorly-made ripoff of Shark Tale, which was, in itself, a poorly-made ripoff of Finding Nemo?

So, needless to say, my expectations for its sequel were low.

I was expecting some lazy piece of garbage with a crappy lesson behind it.  In terms of content, I knew it would involve anthropomorphic sea creatures.  My best guess was that they were going to have to protect the titular reef in some way, maybe from fishermen or pollution or something.

The Plot Summary

Troy is an enormous, angry shark trapped on a research vessel of some sort.  He's locked up in a cage where he spends his time brooding about past injustices whenever he's not being experimented on by scientists doing nebulous work.

One day, a much smaller, goofier shark named Ronny swims by.  Ronny wants to eat some of the food that the scientists have given Troy, so Troy makes a deal: Ronny gets him out of the trap, and Troy will give him the food.  It seems like a good idea at the time, so Ronny agrees.  As soon as he's out, though, Troy basically turns Ronny into an indentured servant and forces him to help carry out "The Plan," after which Ronny will be free to go.

The Plan, as it turns out, is to get revenge on Pi, a guppy who lives in the titular Reef.  Pi is a stereotypical Leader character who makes up for his lack of physicality with a whole lot of spirit.  (He also has magical water powers that allow him to summon energy orbs and shoot them at other fish, but let's pretend he doesn't because the movie acts like this is no big deal and it doesn't actually help him later.)

Pi apparently fought with Troy in the past and banished him from The Reef.  Now that Troy is back, he's going to kill Pi and forcibly marry Pi's fish-wife, Cordelia.  (Cordelia is also a guppy, so I'm not sure how that works, given their size difference. Also, I know the prospect of fish rape is a little too extreme for a kids' movie, but would it even be anatomically possible?  Don't male fish just release their sperm on a bed of eggs?  So what exactly is Troy's plan?  He's going to shove Cordelia under one of his fins and squeeze her or something?)

There's just one catch: Troy and his gang of indentured servant sharks who we didn't see until just now are too big to fit through some of the coral that surrounds the main plaza of The Reef.  So they can't actually invade until the tide rises high enough for them to swim over it in a few days - hence the subtitle, "High Tide."

Troy and Pi make a lot of noise at each other and then go their separate ways to prepare for the inevitable showdown in a few days.  Pi tries to train the denizens of The Reef to become fighters, but it's no use - they're a bunch of random goofballs and can't be trained.  This is apparently the whole point of The Reef; it's never said, but it seems to be a refuge for wayward souls and wandering idiots who can't survive anywhere else in the ocean.

This is exploited by Ronny in just a few minutes, as Ronny, who is small enough to swim past the coral, puts on a disguise and infiltrates The Reef, pretending to be a slightly different doofus.  The Reef welcomes him with open arms, and Ronny covertly tries to throw off their plans at defending their home.

Through convoluted nonsense, this basically boils down to him training all the other sea creatures to put on an enormous song-and-dance show so they can attract the attention of humans, who will tour The Reef and scare away all the sharks.

This ends up being the entire second act of the movie.  Ronny does a lot of stereotypical show business stuff while Pi gets cranky and tries to set up a shark trap thing, and the two of them get into arguments.  There's also a ton of abominable puns on celebrity names like "Sharkira" and "Justin Beaver."

Fast forward awhile and Ronny reveals his double-cross act by bringing Cordelia to Troy.  Then he realizes he feels terrible about it because he actually likes The Reef and wants to help them out.  He goes back to Pi, grovels, and helps Pi rescue Cordelia.  Then everybody goes back to The Reef and has a big, nonsensical battle that is bereft of death but chock full of violence.  There are no less than three times when a shark is pinned under a giant boulder and at least one of them is thrown into an electrified net that zaps him into paralysis.  It's kinda brutal.

There's a Wise Turtle character voiced by Rob Schneider who summons a magical underwater dragon (apparently this is a thing in the universe of The Reef), but that kinda doesn't amount to too much and Troy still ends up getting the upper hand.

Then Pi lures Troy into the shark trap thing he set up earlier, and it slingshots Troy two hundred miles away where he lands on the research vessel where he was at the beginning of the movie.  The Reef celebrates, and then Ronny reveals that he managed to attract some humans / tourists to The Reef after all, so the sea creatures start singing and dancing.

The Stuff I Liked

The animation was a lot better than I expected.  It's a little rough at points - the eyes are all dead and they can't seem to animate droplets of water worth a damn - but for the most part it looks like they knew what they were doing.

I also appreciated that the script actually made sense on some level.  The majority of kids' movie sequels don't give a shit - it'll just be the same villain as before and he'll just get revived by magic (sometimes literally), and then they do the exact same thing as before, and blah blah blah who cares.  You ever see Shrek 2?  I wasn't exactly a fan of the original Shrek, but holy shit, Shrek 2 didn't care.  And Part 3 actually got worse.

(Weirdly enough, Shrek 4 was actually a step up.)

Anyway, I'm not going to pretend that The Reef 2 had a brilliant screenplay, but it had some clever moments and it actually made for a decent premise.  I admit: I kinda like the thought that all the townies of Dumbass City were going to sing and dance their way out of trouble.  If you took that premise and gave it to some better comedians to flesh out the script, you could end up with a really funny underwater version of Seven Samurai meets Waiting for Guffman.  That sounds awesome.

The Reef 2 isn't that, but it tried.  I appreciate the effort.

The Stuff I Didn't Like

It's aggressively unfunny.

Like, it's one thing to have jokes that are meant for kids and you just roll your eyes at them, but this movie takes it to another level.  It has stuff that kids couldn't possibly get as a joke - like an eel doing a James Cagney impression - that just sits there being totally devoid of comedy.

And the punny names.  Oh, God.  Fuck you.

I have to be honest - I actually thought this was an okay-ish movie.  It's not innovative, but it's got pep and all the basic elements of it work.  But then some asshole fish tries to make me laugh and I just want it to die.

I even think voice actors - including both Rob Schneider and Jamie Kennedy - did a fine job.  They've got the right energy and charisma and do what they can.  But either their improv sucked or they were given garbage lines.  The movie never even does anything funny by accident.

Still, being an okay movie that's not funny is not the same thing as being a shitty movie that's also unfunny, so The Reef 2 comes out on top.

Would I Recommend It?

If you have kids, yeah.  It should keep them entertained, but it's not so obnoxious you couldn't watch it with them.

What I Think the Prequel Was About

This is pretty straightforward - obviously the first one was about The Reef back when Troy was around.  I assume he was in charge of the place and ran it like a tyrant, forcing all the other fish to get him food or whatever.

Then one day Pi showed up and, after learning some lessons from the Wise Turtle, developed magical energy orb powers and used them to banish Troy.  He hooked up with Cordelia, and the rest is history.

My Pitch for Another One

In the crazy alternate universe where I could pitch any concept I wanted and it didn't matter if it was kid-friendly?  I want to see what happens to Troy.  Dude's been caught by this research vessel twice and it looks like they've been injecting him with God knows what.

How about they take him to a Deep Blue Sea-esque offshore science facility where they continue to experiment him, and then he gains enough powers to break free as a new Super Shark?  And then he unites all the sharks in the ocean to join his new Shark Gang, and he comes back to The Reef and you think, "Oh no! Pi is really going to get it now!"  But then it turns out Troy actually wants Pi's help to summon that crazy underwater dragon again, because Troy's decided he doesn't care about their history anymore - he just wants that dragon to help him and the Shark Gang to overthrow all humans.  Oh!  And they develop land-suits so they can go out on the shore and find the corporate headquarters of the research facility and tackle them on their own turf!

But since the studio probably wants this to be PG-rated at most, I guess the next one has to be about teamwork or some shit.  So, I don't know.  I guess The Reef gets damaged in a sea storm and they have to work with some jerks from the reef next door to rebuild it.

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