Coral Reef Adventure

on February 14, 2003 by Jordan Reed
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It's nearly impossible not to react positively to an IMAX film; the sheer size of them is so impressive. And when they're providing access to sights rarely seen by us nine-to-fivers, so much the better. "Coral Reef Adventure"--the name pretty much says it all--doesn't disappoint in that regard. The underwater footage is spectacular--huge manta rays glide on by, eels stretch their powerful jaws, and lush coral sway with the current. And it's not all just for show. Part of the film's point is to inform us of the fragility of these deep-sea habitats; a mere two-degree increase in water temperature can destroy a reef. Marine biologists are trying to find ways to stop the destruction.

But when its camera is above the surface and filming the humans, "Coral Reef Adventure" starts to suffer. The filmmakers shove in lame, staged shots of the crew working out coordinates, preparing nets, et cetera, making for some awkward transitions. And an even bigger problem is that the movie just doesn't know when to shut up. Silly sound effects are needlessly added in many scenes. They might make the littlest kids laugh, but overall they cheapen what are otherwise majestic glimpses of sea creatures behaving in their natural environment. The music, largely consisting of bombastic, “Lion King”-ish remixes of some classic Crosby, Stills & Nash songs, has a cloying, world-beat slant more appropriate for an episode of “Survivor” than for a tranquil undersea adventure.

As beautiful as it often is to watch, "Coral Reef Adventure" ultimately comes off as a bit too kid-friendly and faux-inspirational, which is kind of a drag. There's nothing wrong with trying to get the youngsters curious about our ever-threatened environment, but don't do so at the expense of the grown-ups. After all, we're the ones buying the tickets. Narrated by Liam Neeson. Directed by Greg MacGillivray. Written by Osha Gray Davidson and Stephen Judson. Produced by Greg MacGillivray and Alec Lorimore. A MacGillivray Freeman release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time:46 min

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