Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I will readily admit that in my opinion ‘Finding Nemo’ probably closed the book on animated fish movies, and that includes a ‘Shark’s Tale’, considering that ‘Finding Nemo’ is one of my all-time favorite movies.  Now from the Weinstein Company we have another animated fish story, which seems to be a cross between both ‘Finding Nemo’ and a ‘Shark’s Tale’, plus it’s also Direct-to-Video which isn’t always a good thing, with ‘Shark Bait’.  But even though it’s certainly no Pixar produced masterpiece, it’s still solid, harmless family entertainment which I’m pretty certain will entertain your pre-teen just fine.  Probably not you perhaps, but your kid?  Yeah, I’m guessing he or she will love it because mine did.  But then, bless his simple heart, my kid likes everything. 

Living in the Boston Bay, or whatever they call that pile of sludge on the east coast of Massachusetts, maybe the Atlantic Ocean?  Regardless of what it’s called, a little fish named Pi is swimming along with his mom and dad with mom imploring dad to move to a place called The Reef where the waters are clear, the fish are jumping and the living is easy.  Dad is resistant, even after getting a visit from the three-eyed fish from ‘The Simpsons’ as he’s a big city loving fish.  All that changes when ‘The Net’ comes, sweeps up a crap load of fish, all of which I’m sure have sky high mercury levels, and makes the little fish Pi an orphan.  Fortunately for Pi he is found by a family of benevolent porpoises and they accompany the heart broken baby fish to The Reef to live with his Auntie.  Through the long Journey Pi has grown into a young man-fish who is now using the voice of Freddie Prinze Jr. and enters into The Reef.  The first thing he sees is the vision of beauty in super model fish Cordelia (Evan Rachel Wood) and he is instantly in love.  Unfortunately the big bad evil shark Troy (Donal Logue) who is prone to spout off some of the lamest rap rhymes that you will ever hear, has laid a claim to Cordelia as his own, despite the seemingly impossible biological hurdles of such a pairing taking place. 

Obviously not noticing that sharks have rows of sharp teeth and he only has plankton softening gums, Pi gets in Troy’s face for Cordelia’s honor and gets his butt kicked for his trouble.  Cordelia has taken a liking to the stupid little fish and to save his life and the lives in The Reef, she agrees to marry Troy, despite the seemingly impossible biological hurdles of such a pairing taking place.  Now stealing from the ‘Karate Kid’ Pi befriends a bitter angry old turtle with mystical powers named Nerissa (Rob Schneider) who take a liking to the plucky stupid toothless fish and takes him under his shell to give him some wax-on, wax-off skills to defeat the two-ton Great White.  Don’t think a goldfish can beat a Great White Shark?  Then you don’t know the power of the sea my friend.  Actually I don’t know what kind of fish Pi is supposed to be quite honestly, but he looks a little like a goldfish.  Tensions are running high as the marriage of Troy and Cordelia, biological issues aside, is taking place and Pi only has a few moments left to complete his training confront the big shark and lay claim to his pretty prize.  Not to spoil anything, but I’m liking his chances.

To call ‘Shark Bait’, originally titled ‘The Reef’ which I think is a much better title, but calling it derivative is the understatement of the year.  I understand that with so many titles, books, TV shows and such out there that the chances of making or creating anything even remotely original is very small, but ‘Shark Bait’ takes its thievery to the comical.  There is absolutely nothing in this little animated film that you haven’t seen a thousand times, and you could actually play a mini-game while watching this thing and calling out which film they ripped that scene or this scene from.  The animation was little shaky at times too with some of the fish models looking really nice such as Cordelia the blue fish and Nerissa the turtle who doesn’t go up for air, but Pi had washed out textures and didn’t look all that great, and considering he’s the star of this thing that was a bit disappointing.  The ocean they lived in seemed very empty, but the above water effects were nice and the actual Reef was vibrant and colorful.

The voice acting wasn’t too bad with the best work being done by Fran Drescher as Pi’s crazy aunt Pearl and Schneider doing good vocal work in the multitude of roles he was given but the other voice actors were perfunctory at best.  A lot the humor was a little infantile with jokes apparently being lifted from the inside of Laffy Taffy wrappers BUT… this is very light, completely harmless entertainment and wasn’t designed to save the world I don’t think.  The only thing that may cause some concern for parents is the death of Pi’s parents early on, and that needing to be explained to real young kids, but otherwise children’s entertainment can’t get more innocuous than ‘Shark Bait’.  Think Veggie Tales with fish instead of vegetables.  Yeah, it probably could have been better, much better even, but if you’re looking for family safe viewing to entertain the crumbsnatchers for 80 or so minutes, it can’t get much safer than ‘Shark Bait’.

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