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Overall Rating
2.81

Awesome: 11.63%
Worth A Look: 10.47%
Average39.53%
Pretty Bad: 24.42%
Total Crap: 13.95%

7 reviews, 44 user ratings


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Shark Tale
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by David Cornelius

"Whaddya know, it's better than you've heard!"
3 stars

“Shark Tale” does not offer us anything new, really, and I don’t just mean in the realm of “gee, that sounds like a limp ‘Finding Nemo’ ripoff.” (Surprisingly, the film has very little in common with Pixar’s gem, although comparisons are inevitable - more on that later.) No, I mean the plot in general, which follows a fast-talking hero who gets in over his head with a small lie that blows up into a big lie, which will undoubtedly end with the hero having to admit the truth to the world, learned lessons following.

It feels on the surface to be a by-the-numbers kiddie flick, which it kinda is, really. But it has enough goodies going for it that I left the movie smiling, having thoroughly enjoyed the good enough to ignore the not-so-good. For starters, it’s actually quite funny. Not the lame puns (“you da fish!” one child limply exclaims, to our collective chagrin) or the weak pop culture references that will cause this movie to age too quickly (the jokes regarding, say, “Jaws” work; the forced hip-hop slang and remade disco tunes don’t), but the moments of wonderful lunacy, like the repeat appearances of a homeless crab named Crazy Joe, who likes puppets. The funniest moments here, in fact, come not from the leading characters or the main story, but from the secondary creatures, an assortment of dimwits and weirdos who pop in just long enough to get a chuckle in.

What sold me on the film, however, wasn’t the comedy, but the heart. “Shark Tale” has two main messages to be found beyond its obvious be-true-to-yourself number. To get to these, though, let’s peek at the plot first.

The film is a CGI cartoon in which the coral reef is a buzzing metropolis; slickster Oscar (voiced by Will Smith) works at the neighborhood whale wash, although he’s always dreaming of doing more, or being “a somebody.” Meanwhile, in a gangster parody that’s sharper than it sounds, the shark godfather (Robert De Niro) laments that his younger son Lenny (Jack Black) is a vegetarian, of all things. Long story short, Lenny’s brother is killed by an anchor; Oscar is accidentally credited for the slaying; Oscar becomes famous; Oscar and Lenny become friends, hatching a plan to fake Lenny’s death, thus allowing Oscar to keep his tough guy rep and Lenny to escape a family that wants to turn him into a killer.

Everything unfolds just about as expected, but let’s go back to those two main messages. One: It’s OK to live the humble life. Oscar recalls how proud he was of his father, who worked at the whale wash his entire life - until other kids made fun of him for his dad’s lowly job. As Oscar gains and loses fame and fortune, maybe he’ll learn that common, blue collar work is no cause for shame. In a world that tends to hype celebrity and making it big, marking financial status as the only test of one’s worth, it’s refreshingly wonderful to see a story aimed at kids that tells them that happiness, not money, is what’s really important.

Two: It’s OK to be different. Lenny’s predicament is as thinly veiled as your average “Star Trek” episode. Anyone paying half-attention to the film will realize that Lenny is gay. He worries about his family accepting him. He “outs” himself to Oscar. He fears how being different will make life hard for him. And yet, not matter how swishy Lenny gets, the film refuses to poke fun. This is a movie entirely on Lenny’s side, and why not? Maybe this movie will sow the seeds of acceptance in its young audience, not just for homosexuality, but for anyone who may not be exactly like you. Welcome differences, the film teaches, even if the kids watching don’t realize they’re being taught.

That said, let’s now go back to “Finding Nemo.” It’s impossible to watch “Shark Tale” without thinking of last year’s animated marvel. I suppose I would find the animation in “Shark Tale” to be impressive, instead of just fine, had I not been wowed by the dazzling visuals of Nemo; this new film feels muted and wholly uninterested in the undersea world.

It’s a choice in styles. “Nemo” found the time to slow down and thrill to the gorgeous scenery. In “Shark Tale,” on the other hand, the filmmakers here are merely using the sea as just another setting, some interchangable place picked just for fun. This is a story that could have been moved to the African jungle and, with just a few species changes, remained relatively the same thing.

But above all, there’s nothing in the animation in “Shark Tale” that awes. (A few shots dazzle, but not as many as one would hope.) The comparisons are similar to those between Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” and DreamWorks’ “Antz.” The DreamWorks efforts strain to paste human faces onto animal bodies, resulting in something off-putting (picture Martin Scorsese’s mug on a blowfish, and that’s one “Shark Tale” character entirely); add to this the human characters in DreamWorks’ “Shrek” and you realize that this is a studio that seems afraid to use CGI to create cartoons. They’re pushing for realism where none is needed - these are cartoons, after all - and in doing so, they’re limiting their visual imagination. What this movie needs is eye-popping fantasy; what we get is a typical adventure-comedy, with fish.

That said, it’s still a charming, funny, and refreshing typical adventure-comedy, with fish. The time spent unimpressed by the animation is filled with giggles, and the statements the film manages to include makes for something unexpectely sweet. I went into “Shark Tale” expecting a low-rent “Nemo” wannabe; I left it understanding it to be a low-rent “Nemo” wannabe that works.

Oh, and my four-year-old daughter absolutely adored it, which it the whole point, right?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10360&reviewer=392
originally posted: 02/10/05 07:57:01
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/06/09 Jazz loves Will Smith and Shark Tale 5 stars
1/25/09 Samantha Pruitt not as good as it's colleagues (Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc) but still pretty funny! 4 stars
11/22/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 3 stars
5/26/08 PAUL SHORTT THIS TALE HAS BEEN TOLD BEFORE, BUT WE DONT MIND HEARING IT AGAIN 3 stars
8/02/07 SweetPossum people only diss it because of actors. the plot and animation and chacters was great. 5 stars
2/24/07 Austin Wertman a disappointment 3 stars
5/29/06 drydock54321 very entertaining 4 stars
5/16/06 Fruit-Loop Has it's moments but I wased bored. 5.2\10 3 stars
5/04/06 ES 'How to come out to your parents,' the cartoon! 2 stars
4/02/06 JRE since there are so many stars you expect the movie to be good. it's not 2 stars
3/09/06 Dk Amusing but forgettable 2 stars
2/07/06 Anthony A great family movie 4 stars
2/02/06 Mary E. Gur It was a fun movie 5 stars
1/09/06 Eden Puts its actors names before the title - that says all you need to know 1 stars
1/06/06 JM Synth A good cartoon needs more than a star-studded voice cast and a few "fish" puns 2 stars
9/22/05 Jonathon Holmes save your money for "The Incredibles" 2 stars
9/18/05 ryan it was awsome. the sharks were awsome! 5 stars
9/11/05 Harvey Birdman YOU LIAR its the best movie you loser 5 stars
8/27/05 Aliyah Why does everyone dis this movie?It was da bomb. 5 stars
8/12/05 ES A cartoon about how to come out to your family, no where near nemo quality 2 stars
5/28/05 Littlepurch Some of my friends loved it, I didn't. 2 stars
3/13/05 Tamara Burks I haven't seen Nemo so I can't compare but I enjoyed this movie so who cares. 4 stars
3/02/05 Rapunzel Gladstone Furthermore, Allison, the sharls have both nostrils and gills; the bony fish have neither! 3 stars
3/02/05 Allison Lafferty Full of goofs: drinking glasses under water, burst balloons sinking under water, etc.! 3 stars
2/21/05 fiona I was so disappointed in this one. The story and writing were lame, graphics excellent :-( 3 stars
2/20/05 dev good family movie, preferred Nemo but this was still pretty good! 4 stars
2/19/05 april gupton cute 4 stars
2/18/05 Eileen Lammers Cute, lots of fun and laughs 5 stars
1/29/05 Richard Brandt Mildly amusing to see the stars caricatured as fish 3 stars
1/03/05 Chance Lame. It wasn't funny or entertaining. 1 stars
12/12/04 ELI Proof that there is no God 1 stars
12/09/04 Quanisha I loved it 5 stars
11/21/04 er FUCKING SHIT 1 stars
11/06/04 TCIC I didn't laugh once. It was a shoddy merging of Nemo and Shrek 2 stars
11/03/04 Tiff I thought the film was funny, and while educating 5 stars
10/26/04 willjake still a nemo girl thru n thru but did laff all da way thru dis!!! 4 stars
10/18/04 Thylaylii Meh, so/so. Couldn't get over the ugliness of some of the characters, which was unfortunate 3 stars
10/15/04 kait clark funny for teenagers 5 stars
10/12/04 Simon Khalil if the movie is half as good as the soundtrack it will be an entertaining 90 minutes.. 4 stars
10/11/04 Ron L. A humorous propaganda film for the gay movement 2 stars
10/10/04 Tyrantis Why Jack Black, why? 1 stars
10/01/04 Kris Finding Nemo's retarded little brother that no one likes 1 stars
9/27/04 Archanist_101 Decent enough, I guess... 4 stars
9/25/04 M too much happenin, not enough laughs. Snazzy gay undertones, great music though. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  01-Oct-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 08-Feb-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  23-Sep-2004




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