Shark Tale

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Shark Tale
Review (5.5/10)
(By Liam Cullin)

DreamWorks has Antz. Disney/Pixar has A Bug's Life. Disney/Pixar has Finding Nemo. Now DreamWorks Animation has Shark Tale. And here's my only comparison. Finding Nemo will do to Shark Tale what A Bug's Life did to Antz - destroy it at the box office. Why? Because it's a vastly inferior film.

Shark Tale is a tale of two fish. Oscar (Will Smith), a loser fish who dreams of making it big and Lenny (Jack Black), a shark who is nothing near what his father expects him to be. His father is Don Lino (Robert De Niro), the godfather of sharks, and he wants his sons to take over the "family business". The trouble is that Lenny is too sensitive. He doesn't eat meat. He likes to dress up like a dolphin. Basically, he's a cross-dressing vegetarian. (Real kids material here.) So Lenny's brother Frankie takes Lenny out to try and teach him to eat fish. They come across Oscar and decide to make a meal out of him. Oscar flees, Frankie goes after him and gets killed by an falling anchor. Oscar takes credit for killing him, making up a bunch of lies about it and gets the fame and fortune he desires. But when Don Lino comes after the "shark slayer", Oscar has to lie some more to save his neck. In the middle of all this, Oscar shuns the girl who loves him (Renee Zellweger) and falls for (and is subsequently dumped by) the girl who only wants him for his money (Angelina Jolie).

So what am I trying to say here. For a supposed kids movie, Shark Tale has a lot of older themes - themes that I wouldn't be comfortable recommending to children. Maybe for older kids (8-10+) but I know for sure I wouldn't bring my kids to this movie. I mean, I can understand slipping in the odd adult joke to keep the parents happy (this was done successfully in the Toy Story series) but really, this movie pushes it too far - which is why I think this movie will not be nearly as successful as its Disney/Pixar counterpart.

Then again, maybe DreamWorks Animation doesn't want to compete with Disney/Pixar and wants to establish itself as a separate identity. If so, I guess they're succeeding, but to their own detriment. I'm left asking myself where the innocence went. Where? Since when can we not take our kids to an animated feature without fear of bombarding them with all the wrong messages? I'm well aware of Disney's past when it comes to slipping things into their movies, but like I said - it's gone too far at this point.

Unfortunately, it doesn't end there. Frankly, I didn't even find the movie all that entertaining. Sure, it looks flashy and colorful, but the actual story was kinda boring. At one point, I even fell asleep!

Like any animated project, if you're going to see this one, keep your eyes open for little bonuses - like the fact that the sharks live on the wreck of the Titanic. Or that when Don Lino throws something against the wall, it hits the picture from Titanic featuring Kate Winslet. Or there are the numerous quotes from the movie that borrow from other, mostly DreamWorks movies. (Gladiator comes to mind.)

In the end, I'm really indifferent about this movie. It should be noted that I saw this movie at a press/industry screening. Perhaps a screening with actual kids would have livened this one up a bit. Even without the inevitable comparisons to Finding Nemo, this movie isn't nearly as good as it wants to be. The animation is fine, as is the voice work, but the story is weak and the messages it portrays for it's core audience (ie. you can lie your way to the top, and while at the top score some action with a hot babe, just be careful when the mob comes after you) aren't anything I could honestly say that young children should watch. I don't care that the characters eventually redeemed themselves, it's their journey that was inappropriate. Proceed with caution. This shark bites.

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