“Even if this is stupid…crazy super dangerous…or stupid crazy with an extra side of crazy…we’ll never ever let you do it alone.”

Right off the bat one of the things that impresses me with this release is Mattel’s continuing drive to expand the Monster High universe. With each release we pull people from the same pool of characters but they’re always in different locations, being careful to keep the theme of staying true to yourself, freaky flaws and all, intact no matter what happens. This go-around Monster High: Great Scarrier Reef takes us to the titular location, home of Lagoona Blue (Larissa Gallagher).

When Toralei (America Young) is embarrassed at the school recital she takes her secret knowledge of Lagoona’s stage fright and uses it to instead embarrass Lagoona. But it works a little too well, with Lagoona’s body contorting into a “belly up” pose which is captured, broadcast, and a viral sensation within hours. This leads to Lagoona denying Toralei entrance to the pool party she had agreed to help plan for Toralei and the rest of the recital performers. An all-out war would be likely to happen but the pool starts to churn and Toralei falls in. Realizing the kitty can’t swim Lagoona is quick to jump in after her but the tide turns and suddenly there’s a whirlpool threatening to engulf the ghouls. Gil, Draculaura, Frankie and Clawdeen (Evan Smith, Debi Derryberry, Kate Higgins and Salli Saffiotti, respectively) all grab on to Lagoona and Toralei but it’s no use, they’re sucked under.

The whirlpool ends up being a portal to The Great Scarrier Reef and the ghoulfriends soon learn they’ve been brought there by Posea (Paula Rhodes), daughter of Poseidon who helps her dad watch out for the seafolk. And she’s seen Lagoona’s life-force withering and intends to intervene. Telling Lagoona the only way to both get home and correct the flow is to confront her deepest fear Posea disappears, leaving everyone to wonder what to do. Of course we know Lagoona must face her stage fright but here’s where the story veers off course in a welcome direction. While you might expect Lagoona to suddenly be able to perform on stage by the end of the runtime that doesn’t happen. Instead she learns to embrace her stage fright as part of her personality, something she accepts instead of defeats. It’s a really great message for young people watching because sometimes in life there are going to be things you can’t change and learning how to go on in spite of that is something we all struggle to do. That message alone is enough to convince me to recommend Monster High: Great Scarrier Reef (Blu-ray) but there’re more elements to bolster the recommendation.

For one thing Monster High: Great Scarrier Reef experiments with different types of animation within the film as well as broadening the color palette beyond the expected pink and black to really embrace the full spectrum of colors available. There were three different kinds of animation used and everything blended very well together allowing us to have distinct elements within the same story — Monster High, The Great Scarrier Reef, and flashbacks. Also unique to The Great Scarrier Reef portion of the film are the physical transformations the characters all go through, becoming sea creatures as soon as they exit the portal and enter the sea. Each character takes on aspects of a different animal such as an octopus, a manta ray and an electric eel. For example, Frankie is able to both light up and electrify her new tail while Draculaura can squeeze through almost any opening. While these changes help sell the accompanying merchandise to be sure they also help separate this release from its predecessors and are an evolution from the costume changes we normally see which link characters to the movies. It’s yet another way to grow the franchise. Another thing I enjoy seeing is the inclusion of one of the Monster High ghoul’s parents. This time around we meet Lagoona’s dad and we even see a picture of her mom. It’s one more way to expand the Monster High universe and its ever-growing canon of characters.

Monster High: Great Scarrier Reef expands on its use of color and as I’ve said in previous reviews the animation continues to improve with every release and this is by no means an exception. This is probably the best any Monster High movie has looked. The Blu-ray is beautiful with a lovely 1.78:1 1080p high-definition transfer and I was especially taken with the light effects the animators employed. Though not a full-blown musical like its predecessor Monster High: Boo York Boo York this does have musical elements including montages and as such the DTS-HDMA 5.1 track is fuller than the film needs it to be but that just means there are no complaints to be had from anyone listening. And if a DTS-HDMA track is too rich for your ears there are also some DTS Surround Sound as well as Dolby Digital tracks to choose from.

In terms of special features we have digital and DVD copies of the film and also another Ever After High special which is a feature we’ve seen offered on earlier releases. This go-around it’s “Way Too Wonderland” which runs about 45 minutes in length.

Overall, Monster High: Great Scarrier Reef is going to be a welcome addition to your Monster High collection. The idea of not being able to run away from what you’re afraid of, that sooner or later facing what makes you afraid is something you’re going to have to do is a lesson that all kids are going to learn whether they want to or not. I really enjoyed the aspect of having Lagoona embrace her fear but not actually conquer it, because sometimes learning to live with what we’re afraid of is exactly what happens. It was an unexpectedly realistic element which just added to my enjoyment of the story overall.

THE VERDICT

Another fin-tastic entry in the canon.

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