A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Reef's premise involves a fish witnessing his parents being captured by a net and never being seen again, which could frighten very young kids. There are a number of scary-looking fish with sharp teeth in the film. It also involves sustained bullying from a creepy tiger shark who demands the affections of a female fish and abuses everyone. Though the message is ultimately a positive one about sticking up for yourself, there are numerous scuffles, insults, and a major plot point that involves fighting to solve a problem.
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What's the story?
When Pi (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is separated from his parents in the increasingly polluted Boston seaside, he makes his way to the Caribbean to a protected wildlife sanctuary called the Reef. But instead of a peaceful environment, he finds a new family and a community terrorized by Troy (Donal Logue) the tiger shark, a nasty-tempered bully set on intimidating everyone, especially anyone who takes a shine to his would-be girlfriend Cordelia (Evan Rachel Wood). When Troy senses Pi and Cordelia have hit it off, he ups the stakes, and now Pi must learn to stand up to the bully, even if it means risking everything.
Is it any good?
THE REEF is a bit rough around the edges for very young kids. A fish watches his parents being swept up by a net, never to return, and immediately finds a mean-spirited bully on what should be safe ground. The high number of tumbles, some flatulence jokes, and the Karate Kid-style plot -- which has Pi training to fight Troy for the big finish -- and the very creepy intimidation Troy lays on Cordelia all feel a bit too volatile for the film's cover appearance, designed to lure the same crowd that loves The Little Mermaid. There are some nice ideas about substitute communities and rallying to solve a problem, but it's unfortunate the answer is found in more violence.
Kids who like ocean adventures will be drawn to this, but parents may want to be ready to discuss bullies, orphans, and the mean streets underwater and possibly clarify what girls should do if boys ever demand their affections.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dealing with bullies. Is violence ever justified? What else could Pi have done to try to solve the problems in the Reef? Would it have worked?
Have you ever had to stand up for yourself? How did you do it? What happened?
How does The Reef compare to other movies set underwater? How is it different?
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