Shark Tale


Current Reviews
DVD Reviews
Old Reviews
Crystal Ball
About the M.R.
Photo Gallery
Celebrity Interviews












Shark Tale
The Masked Reviewer

So.  It's time for another animated feature film from Dreamworks.  They had a huge hit with Shrek and an even huger hit with Shrek 2.  Here's the big follow up.  Is it everything you dreamed?

In a word, not really.

Okay, that's two words.  Here's two more: shut up.

Why is the Masked Reviewer so surly?  He's a bit disappointed after watching Shark Tale.  It is, in fact, about sharks, but it's not, in fact, very good.

What?  How is that possible?  Well, read on, and find out.

Most animated feature films over the last ten years will create main characters that embody certain traits of the stars providing the voices.  They might look similar, they might sound similar, and they might act similar.  Or is it similarly?  Either way.  Shark Tale is Will Smith's animated feature film.  Here's the pitch meeting:

Studio Executive: "We need to get an animated feature film for Will Smith.  He's hot, and kids love him."

Agent: "I totally agree with you, and that tie is lovely, by the way.  As a matter of fact, I've got a project that just came in.  Get ready for this: Will Smith is a fish.  Kids love fish!  Look at Finding Nemo.  That made bazillions of dollars."

Studio Executive: "Ha ha ha!  Continue."

Agent: "So Will will be a fish and he'll fight sharks, because kids love sharks.  We'll get a few other big names, but Will will do what Will does...he'll be a hip-hoppin fish.  Maybe we can work in some dinosaurs, because kids love dinosaurs.  And the merchandising will be HUGE!"

Studio Executive: "Sign the papers!"

Will Smith's character (Oscar) IS Will Smith.  His voice is the same, the character resembles him, and he does his schtick.  Even Robin Williams as the Geni in Aladdin had some small hint of a character.  Will Smith doesn't.  Now, this will be fine if you like Will Smith, and it's hard to imagine finding many people who don't like him, at least a little.  But in terms of a movie, it's missing a few elements.  Characters, plot, interest.

The other voices in the movie include Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorcsese, Renee Zellweger, and Jack Black.  There are a number of other cameo voices, too, but in the interest of the Masked Reviewer's non-spoiler policy, he won't give them away in case you like to guess.

The other characters are woefully underused.  Robert DeNiro plays a done-to-death stereotype.  He doesn't bring much to the role, other than his recognizable voice.  Scorsese (in a role that seems as though it was written for Joe Pesci) also doesn't bring anything special.  Neither does Renee Zellweger (although that's less of a surprise).  Here's the big surprise -- Jack Black, the other "lead" voice, doesn't add anything special, either.  His character sounds like a bad impression of Squiggy from "Laverne and Shirley".  More importantly, he's not particularly funny.  He's not over the top.  Why hire Jack Black if he's not going to go all crazy on ya?

Will Smith's fish gets all the laughs.  Those laughs are usually of the variety found in "Fresh Prince of Bel Air".  There's a lot of "white fish can't do that" humor.  The trouble is, this is a kid's movie.  In a TV show, it's fine, you know what your'e dealing with.  In an animated feature, it feels somehow...slightly...offensive.  Sure, kids' films use stereotypes to create characters that the kids will understand, but Shark Tale seems to perpetuate some points of view that suggest that people (or fish) are very different.  In the old days, they used to talk about everyone being the same, and that how you looked or acted doesn't matter, we're all people (or fish).  Perhaps this wouldn't have stuck with the Masked Reviewer if Will Smith's character didn't set himself apart by virtue of his hip-hoppiness, and maybe a few less "white fish can't do that" jokes. 

In any event, the other problem is that the movie isn't really funny.  The kids in the theater weren't screaming with laughter.  A lot were climbing on the seats and bored.  There's a lot of talking and love story, and not nearly enough site gags.  How do you make an animated movie without sight gags?  There are a few, but too few by a long shot.  They use a lot of fish puns (most in the form of product placement with big brand names changed a bit to be a cutesy undersea pun, like "Coral Cola").   

A lot of the problems with the movie could easily be overlooked if it were more entertaining.  Any positives about the film come solely from Will Smith, who is able to be charming (and at least marginally funny) with poor material.  He carries the movie, but it's too much for him alone.  None of the other voice actors gave enough to make it really entertaining, and the writing is no where close to that of Shrek.  The funniest moment involves a scene with shrimp, but even that doesn't pay off big enough.

The visuals, too, are quite a disappointment.  There are bright colors, but the fish often don't look like anything special.  It's not up to par with Shrek visually, much less Shrek 2.  It's also below the visual quality of Finding Nemo, which is a much better movie.

All in all, there's nothing to recommend about the movie.  Kids often don't know any better -- many kids liked Cat in the Hat, so what do they know?  If you're an adult and you enjoy animated features, you're much less likely to think this was anything more than "cute".  Even that's a stretch.  It's  Nothing.  You can't say it's bad (unless you're offended by it) but it's not as funny as it could have been, and the cast was underused.  Bad directing, bad writing, Will Smith is Will Smith.  For some, that will be enough. 

By the way, if you do see it, there are some added little "jokes" or gags at the very end, throughout the credits.  They're not really worth sticking around for, but some people hate to miss things.

Expectation from the Title: At the end of Jaws, you thought it was all over.  That is, until you realized that the explosion which killed the Great White didn't kill all of it.  The tail somehow survived without a head or body, and is now, thirty years later, stalking its prey.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  The colors are very colorful.

The Pros: Will Smith fans will enjoy seeing a fish version of Will Smith.

The Cons: Bad writing, not funny enough, drags on, visuals aren't great, underused cast.


Home | 28 Days Later | The 40-Year-Old Virgin | 50 First Dates | A Lot Like Love | A Man Apart | A Mighty Wind | Adaptation | After the Sunset | Against the Ropes | Alexander | Alien versus Predator | Along Came Poly | Anchorman | Anger Management | Anything Else | Around the World in 80 Days | Bad Boys II | Bad Santa | Batman Begins | Be Cool | Beauty Shop | Beyond Borders | The Big Bounce | Blade: Trinity | The Bourne Supremacy | Brother Bear | Bulletproof Monk | The Butterfly Effect | Cabin Fever | Cat in the Hat | Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ( not Willy Wonka ) | Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle | Chronicles of Riddick | Coach Carter | Collateral | The Cooler | The Core | Corpse Bride | Cradle 2 Grave | Criminal | The Dancer Upstairs | Dawn of the Dead | Daredevil | The Day After Tomorrow | Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalow | Dirty Pretty Things | Down with Love | The Dukes of Hazard | Dumb and Dumberer | Elektra | Elf | Envy | Eternal Sunshine | Fantastic Four | Fever Pitch | Flight of the Phoenix | Flightplan | Freaky Friday | Freddy vs. Jason | Gigli | Gothika | The Haunted Mansion | Hero | Hidalgo | Hitch | Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Hollywood Homicide | The Hulk | The Hunted | I, Robot | Identity | IMAX Matrix Reloaded | The Incredibles | Intolerable Cruelty | Irreversible | The Island | The Italian Job | Jeepers Creepers 2 | Jersey Girl | Johnny English | Kill Bill Volume 1 | Kill Bill Volume 2 | King Arthur | Kung Fu Hustle | Ladder 49 | The Ladykillers | Land of the Dead | The Last Samurai | League of Extraordinary Gentlemen | Legally Blonde 2 | Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou | The Longest Yard | Lord of the Rings: Return of the King | Lord of War | Love, Actually | Madagascar | Man on Fire | The Macnhurian Candidate | Master and Commander | Matchstick Men | The Matrix Reloaded | Matrix Revolutions | The Medallion | Meet the Fockers | Monster | Mr. 3000 | Mr. and Mrs. Smith | Mystic River | National Treasure | Ocean's Twelve | Once Upon a Time in Mexico | Ong-bak | Open Range | Out of Time | The Pacifier | The Passion of the Christ | The Perfect Score | Pirates of the Caribbean | Pool Hall Junkies | The Punisher | Resident Evil:Apocalypse | Runaway Jury | Sahara | School of Rock | Seabiscuit | Secret Lives of Dentists | Secret Window | Serenity | Shark Tale | Shaun of the Dead | Shrek 2 | Sideways | Sin City | Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas | Sky High | Something's Gotta Give | Spanglish | Spellbound | Spider-Man 2 | Spongebob Squarepants Movie | Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith | Starsky & Hutch | The Station Agent | Stepford Wives | Stuck on You | Surviving Christmas | Suspect Zero | SWAT | Taxi | Team America | Terminator 3 | Timeline | Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life | Troy | Underworld | Unleashed | Uptown Girls | Van Helsing | The Village | Walking Tall | War of the World | Wedding Crashers | Welcome to Mooseport | The Whole Ten Yards | Without a Paddle | Wrong Turn | X-Men 2 | XXX: State of the Union | Action | Comedy | Documentary | Drama | Family | Epic | Family | Horror | Romance | Sci Fi

Copyright 2003, Michael D. Lynn