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Shark Tale /

Rated: PG

Starring: Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Renée Zellweger

Directed by: Rob Letterman, Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson

Produced by: Bill Damaschke, Janet Healy, Allison Lyon Segan
Written by:
Rob Letterman, Michael J. Wilson
Dreamworks SKG


Oscar ( Will Smith ) tries to explain to Angie ( Renee Zellweger ) why he's hiding a shark named Lenny ( Jack Black ) in Dreamworks' Shark Tale
Oscar the fish ( Will Smith ) in Dreamworks' Shark Tale
Angie ( Renee Zellweger ) is the Whale Wash receptionist in Dreamworks' Shark Tale

     Did anyone not pick up on the fact that all Shark Tale serves as is DreamWorks’ attempt to cash in on Finding Nemo’s success, when they first saw its trailer? I was fully aware of such when I walked into Shark Tale, and I feared it. But, I had hoped that with its star-studded lineup of voice talents and cute plot, the animated feature would turn out to be an entirely fun time. And it kind of was, but it never captures the same timelessness that Finding Nemo did. That film actually had thematic and emotional resonance; this one is simply a lackadaisical parade of underwater puns and “Wow! That’s insert actor’s name here doing the voice of insert animated character’s name here!” moments. There are times when it functions as a pleasant creation for the under-ten set. At others, I, frankly, felt a bit seasick.

     When mobster-shark Don Lino (Robert DeNiro) is disappointed in his vegan son, Lenny (Jack Black), he sends him out to learn the ropes of being a member of their species with his older son. While swimming around, Lenny’s brother is killed by a ship-anchor, but the underwater-public and fish-reporter, Katie Current (Katie Couric), are led to believe that Oscar (Will Smith), a small fish who Lenny was commanded to eat by his sibling, killed the shark. Oscar, a whale-mouth-cleaner by occupation, is dubbed “The Shark Slayer” in the news, and has Don Lino angry. In addition, Lenny conspires with Oscar in order to escape from his father’s carnivorous clutches, and hides out in the fish’s storage garage (or is it the fish-equivalent of a house?). Shark Tale does evoke a few laughs and many grins, but never much more than that.

     The concept is all fine and dandy and I did enjoy the movie, at times, don’t get me wrong. But it’s just so unoriginal and dull that it is almost impossible to recommend. Shark Tale works on an average level, simply because it doesn’t aspire to be anything more than simply entertaining. This is a problem, but at least the movie doesn’t make promises that it can’t keep. Even more ironic is that all of the gifted actors, featured as voice talents, chose such a tongue-in-cheek, mediocre project to participate in. I suppose anything that results in a paycheck is good, in Hollywood. In addition to the actors and actresses that I have already mentioned, Renée Zellweger and Angelina Jolie provide audio for two fish that are competing for Oscar’s heart (one is a longtime friend of his and the other a sassy beauty-queen who is in love with all of the money that he is making) and Martin Scorsese plays a likable blowfish called Sykes, who has mob affiliations with Don Lino and takes the position of Oscar’s agent.

     The one element of Shark Tale that is most responsible for its partial failure is its tone. The movie is so unserious, so airy, viewers know that there is no point in watching the plot play out. In good animated movies, the audience will forget that what they are watching has been drawn, frame by frame. The characters in them are human enough to allow us to fall for their spells, which their imagery casts upon us. In Shark Tale, on the other hand, I always remembered that what I was watching was the mere creation of a computer. It is not engaging or immersive in its execution. Yes, the DreamWorks animation team has birthed another terrific looking picture with the film, but that’s one of the few things that they can whole-heartedly boast. So what if had a good time watching it? In a year, when I think of the genre that Shark Tale belongs to, I strongly doubt that it will come to mind. This, in and of itself, speaks volumes about the picture’s quality.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (10.10.2004)

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