Shark Bait (2006)
Shark Bait (The Reef: Shark Bait in the UK, Australia and North America, Pi's Story in South Korea) is a 2006 South Korean-American computer animated film. The plot revolves around Pi and his attempt to win the heart of Cordelia while dealing with a tiger shark that is terrorizing him and the reef's inhabitants.
A critical and commercial failure, the film was panned for borrowing heavily from other films such as Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo, DreamWorks' Shark Tale, and Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid. Although several well-known actors and comedians were involved in the voiceover work, the film was a box-office bomb. Despite being an American-South Korean co-production, the movie did not receive a theatrical release in the United States. Instead it was released direct to DVD in 2007.
A direct-to-DVD sequel, The Reef 2: High Tide was released in 2012.
Pisces, or Pi, is a young orange wrasse living with his parents Pike and Piper in the polluted harbor of Boston, Massachusetts, until a fishing boat scoops them from the sea. Pi's parents help him escape the net, but cannot escape themselves. Before they are taken away, Piper tells Pi to promise her he would go live with his aunt Pearl. Pi's porpoise friend Percy and Percy's mother Meg agree to take him, but Pi refuses to leave in case his parents return. Meg tells him once anyone is taken by a net they are killed. Pi is heartbroken that his parents are gone forever. Meg and Percy take Pi to live with his aunt Pearl on an exotic reef. The first residents Pi comes across are three elderly marlin named Moe, Jack, and Manny, which direct him towards Pearl's home. On his way there, Pi immediately falls in love with Cordelia, a beautiful angelfish model that has appeared on the cover of National Geographic. He also meets his cousin Dylan, who quickly becomes Pi's best friend. However, Pi soon encounters Troy, the meanest, toughest tiger shark in the ocean, who is not only terrorizing everyone in the reef community, but also has his eye set on Cordelia to become his mate. Pi confronts Troy, only to be physically assaulted by him. Cordelia tells Pi that the only dangerous place on the reef is between Troy and whatever he wants, and if Pi wishes to help her he won’t interfere. Pi and Dylan find their way home, where Pearl is excited to see that Pi has arrived. She is a fortune teller along with her assistant Madge, a sea star and uses a pink pearl that Dylan's late father gave to her as a crystal ball. Pearl reads Pi's future and sees that he is destined for great things and that he will find his destiny on the reef. Pearl then tells Pi that he can go anywhere excluding an old pirate wreck and a forbidden place called "flat bottom". Pearl leaves Dylan in charge of showing Pi around. Dylan tells Pi about Nerissa, a wise old hermit loggerhead turtle that lives in an abandoned shipwreck and practices martial arts, leading to rumors that he is a wizard. Eventually they stumble upon flat bottom, the open sea which is outside of the wildlife sanctuary free for humans to come with their fishing nets. Dylan leaves after a close encounter and Pi sees Cordelia, but per her instructions does not interact until he hears her scream after getting a lure stuck in her fin and swears to help her. Pi brings Cordelia to a crab and sawfish duo named Buddy and Lou who successfully remove it, afterwards she invites him to go to a concert with her. Beforehand, Pi meets Dylan once again and they observe Nerissa defend his blue pearl. At the amphitheatre that night with Cordelia, Pi learns about the performer Thornton, a harbor seal that fought a large monster. Afterwards, Pi and Cordelia look at the stars and she falls in love with him. Suddenly, Troy arrives and pursues them. Pi refuses to leave Cordelia, but Troy starts abusing him worse than ever, until Cordelia makes a deal with him: if he leaves Pi alone, she will marry Troy, Pi is knocked unconscious by Troy and is carried to Nerissa's shipwreck by a current. When Nerissa tells Pi the following day, he is fed up with Troy's abuse towards him, and asks Nerissa to teach him the ways of the ocean to combat Troy. Nerissa initially refuses, Pi asks other residents to help him, but the marlins think because of their age, they won't be useful, also revealing they used to be friends of Nerissa's. Thornton also refuses until Pi reminds Thornton of his tale. However, he states that he didn't actually fight a monster, but due to his "poetic license" it didn’t count as lying. Meanwhile, Troy's henchmen Bart and Eddie try to steal Nerissa's pearl, but are frightened away by Pi and Dylan. Nerissa arrives and is impressed with Pi's skills, agreeing to train him the next morning. On Pi's first day of training, Pearl is worried, telling Pi that she could not live with herself if he were killed. Pi reminds his aunt how she told him he would find his destiny on the reef, and he did when he met Cordelia and now he’s losing her like he lost his parents. Pi reminds Pearl how he couldn't do anything to save them, but he still has a chance to save Cordelia. Nerissa leads Pi down a valley with obstacles. Meanwhile, Cordelia is informed by Buddy and Lou about Pi's upcoming battle with Troy. Nerissa reveals the story of his blue pearl to Pi and he gave it to his wife, but she got hooked in the open sea and taken away to a wildlife sanctuary. Nerissa desperately begged for help, but no one was brave enough. Pi understands, but is unsure how to stop Troy for good; Nerissa tells Pi that Troy has never learned about anything larger than himself, stating the ocean itself is bigger than Troy and if Pi can use the ocean against him, his size wouldn't matter. Cordelia finds Pi and tries to convince him to reconsider, willing to sacrifice herself for his life. That night Pearl's pearl has been stolen by Troy's henchmen. She is heartbroken, since it was all she had left of her late husband. Pi realizes that he cannot back down now no matter how much everyone else doubts him. When Troy returns to the reef, Pi initiates a chase with Troy through the valley Nerissa instructed him to take. Nerissa tries to help by disabling Bart and Eddie and Dylan shoves them down a lobster hole, retrieving his mother's pearl in the process. Pi is then swatted by Troy's tail into a cliff, burying him in rocks. Nerissa attempts to help him, but is hit by Troy; just as all seems lost Thornton and the marlins arrive to fight Troy and they apologize to Nerissa for not helping him when he needed them. Percy and Meg return and free Pi. Troy then sets Percy as a target. Pi sees a net and plans to trick Troy into it. Troy believes Pi is doomed since they are now in his domain. Troy chases Pi up to the surface, where he manages to lead Troy into a fishing net and narrowly escapes the shark's jaws. Troy, trapped in the net, is lifted from the sea. Pi is proclaimed a hero by the population of the reef who all mock Troy believing that he will be made into seafood. Nerissa admits he sees Pi as his son and gives him his pearl. Pi presents Cordelia with the pearl and she accepts it, they share a kiss as the reef celebrates, including a redeemed Bart and Eddie, who rejoice that they are all free from Troy.
- The animation looks very simple and cheap, with facial expressions and character movements generally not flashy and too basic.
- Speaking of animation, the visuals are not the best either, with some very ugly character designs, easily entering Uncanny Valley (the fish residing in the polluted waters at the beginning of the movie being the biggest example of this), in addition to backgrounds and scenarios poorly polished with a great lack of detail.
- While most of the cast is decent, there are still some bad and unlikable and even annoying characters like Pi's aunt Pearl and her son Dylan.
- The pace of the film seems very rushed, with character conversations and very fast transitions of scenes, especially at the end, which ends very suddenly.
- The film also has a great habit of reusing already animated scenes, usually applying a slow motion to them, which is not only lazy, but also poorly executed, considering that whenever a scene has a slow motion present, it ends up with a very low FPS.
- The movie also reuses character models on some occasions, such as the background characters, who are almost all identical and poorly polished compared to the supporting characters, and also the other sharks seen for a short period in the movie, which are all lightly edited copies of Troy, however this is understandable considering the film was on a low budget.
- Also there are some nonsensical scenes, like how the hell did Percy and his mom know that Pi was in danger on the reef near the end of the movie when they were already far away? But the worst thing about it was at the end, where it shows Bobby, the weird three-eyed fish appearing on the reef and celebrating with the other fish with absolutely no explanation, like, he was living in the polluted waters at the beginning of the movie and never it was mentioned that he was also migrating, how the hell did he get there? Ironically, the second movie ended up taking that into account and putting him in a supporting role.
- The film also has many Toilet humor, such as the scenes where one of the swordfish farts constantly and the scene where Dylan urinates on screen when he is being bullied by Bart and Eddie.
- The story, although it seems to copy elements from other movies, is at least decent, and even has some somewhat emotional scenes.
- The movie's animation, despite having its flaws, looks decent for a low-budget 2007 movie.
- Fortunately, most of the characters are likeable, like Cordelia, Nerissa, Percy and his mother, the swordfish Jack, Moe and Manny, the duo Buddy and Lou, Max and even Pi himself.
- There are also some funny scenes here and there and the humor is pretty decent.
- Fortunately, the ugly look problem is present in only a portion of the characters, most of them look pretty and well modeled actually, and even the characters with ugly designs still maintain a very detailed modeling and texturing, very different from The Dolphin: Story of a Dreamer.
- Troy, the main villain, has a great role in the movie, not to mention his shark design is very well polished, probably one of the best.
- Also, Troy's sidekicks, Bart and Eddie, are quite fun characters.
The film was panned by critics, and was deemed a rip-off of DreamWorks' Shark Tale and Pixar's Finding Nemo as it heavily borrows from both films along with The Little Mermaid. Its animation was also deemed poor and outdated.
eFilmCritic.com's David Cornelius described it as "undoubtedly one of the cheapest, ugliest cartoon features ever produced", criticizing its CGI, graphics, and animation. He also criticized its plot, saying, "the script also rehashes every conceivable cliche the kid flick book".
Vince Leo from Qwipster's Movie Reviews gave the movie 2 out of 5 stars, saying, "Shark Bait (aka The Reef in some markets) certainly is testing the limits. It's easily the worst CG-animated adventure to date (up to 2007), burdened with lame puns...". He criticized the animation, calling the character designs "lackluster" and the background "overly simplistic".
Louise Keller of Urban Cinefile gave the film a positive review, saying "The Reef" (the alternative title used in some regions) was a much better title than "Shark Bait" and that it was a "colourful and family friendly animated ocean tale".