In the Dreamworks animated canon, Shark Tale is more Sinbad than Shrek 2. It has all of the elements necessary for a good animated film, but is missing a good story. Worse, Shark Tale has the profound misfortune of arriving after Disney's Finding Nemo. These are different films, but similar enough to draw comparisons, and Shark Tale falls far short of Finding Nemo in nearly every aspect. So while Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Jack Black, and Renee Zellweger can have their CGI counterparts yuck it up on screen, most of the people off screen will watch in a bored manner.
Shark Tale centers around two mismatched friends. Oscar (Smith, I, Robot, Bad Boys II) is the low fish on the totem pole. He works in the car wash, owes money to everybody, and his co-worker Angie (Zellweger, Cold Mountain, Down with Love) has a crush on him, but he is too wrapped up in himself to notice. Lenny (Black, Anchorman, Envy) is a great white shark, but unlike the rest of them, he's a really nice guy. He's a vegetarian, has an effeminate voice, and doesn't like doing any of the normal shark things, much to the dismay of his father Don Lino (De Niro, Godsend, Analyze That).
Rob Letterman, Damien Shannon and Mark Swift (Freddy vs. Jason), and Michael J. Wilson (The Tuxedo, Ice Age) wrote the screenplay. They spend about half an hour setting up the story, and since there is not much of a story, that means about half an hour of dull exposition. Don Lino and his sharks are like a mafia, and all the fish that live on the reef are terrified of them. Oscar is around when one of them dies, and he claims that he killed the shark. Now he's a hero. Everybody calls him 'the sharkslayer,' and he catapults to fame. This all goes to his head, and people like Lola (Angelina Jolie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Taking Lives) now cling to him. Angie's feelings begin to turn sour, especially as Oscar's attitude becomes more arrogant.
Lenny sees Oscar's fame as an opportunity to escape from the shadow of Don Lino. They concoct a plan where Oscar will pretend to kill Lenny, which will give him more fame. This does not go as planned, since Don Lino takes notice and vows to kill Oscar. Then, magically, everything ends with a send-off by Missy Elliot and Christina Aguilera. Directors Letterman, Bibo Bergeron (The Road to El Dorado), and Vicky Jenson (Shrek) are more concerned with making things hip by adding in a soundtrack full of pop and hip-hop stars, references to other movies, and sight gags. It feels like Shrek-lite.
This would work if the quality was better. The unwritten rule for these movies is that they must one-up the last one in animation quality. This is where Shrek 2, and especially Finding Nemo blow Shark Tale away. Shark Tale looks good, but it doesn't look great. The characterizations are worse. The one bright spot is Martin Scorcese (Gangs of New York, Bringing Out the Dead) as a puffer fish that seems to be Martin Scorcese. Oscar is so full of himself that he really comes off as a jerk. It's hard to care that Angie doesn't care for him anymore. Smith played it all a little too thick. Black did the opposite. In his other films, he is a ball of manic energy, and it looks as if somebody slipped him a downer. Lenny is extremely subdued. Because of some of his mannerisms and habits, one can make the assumption that Lenny is gay and that Shark Tale is a story about tolerance, but that would be giving it a little too much credit.
|Haro Rates It: Not That Good.|
|1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated PG for some mild language and crude humor.|
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