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