October 7, 2004

Shark Tale

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We”ve seen Will Smith as a hunter of aliens, a detective investigating robots, and a defender of the public. Now, in Shark Tale, Smith saves the world as a slayer of sharks. This time, however, the producers and directors are not enticing us by his charm and muscles, but are rather reeling us in by presenting Smith and a cast of celebrities as lovable cartoon sea animals.

Shark Tale advertises itself as Finding Nemo with a hip-hop, urban flair. But the only similarities Shark Tale shares with Finding Nemo is its setting and its animation. Behind the stunning underwater scenes, Shark Tale is a simple story of a flat character coping with the overdone issue of being a ‘little fish in a big pond … a really big pond … the ocean!’ Oscar (Smith) is a young fish working at the Whale Wash as a tongue scrubber. When his boss, (a blowfish voiced by Martin Scorsese) ascertains that Oscar has borrowed $5,000 for get-rich-quick schemes, he threatens to have the mafia (with whom he has close ties) kill him. Oscar gets the money, but blows it all at a seahorse racetrack. Just before his execution, a strange course of events ensues, and he finally gets his lucky break by taking credit for killing a shark (who happens to be the son of the Godfather shark, played by Robert De Niro). The only one who knows that Oscar is a liar is the Godfather”s other son, Lenny (Jack Black), a vegetarian shark who throws up at the thought of eating shrimp cocktail.

Bringing in pop culture references such as The Godfather and giving them a sea-spin (shell phones, Kelpy Kreme donuts, Jessica Shrimpson) helps this movie”s cause, but certainly doesn”t keep it float. While Shrek and Finding Nemo found the right balance between these references and an original plot studded with characters that actually possessed some semblance of depth, Shark Tale (excluding its animation) is very one dimensional. The characters, for example, are underdeveloped. It is difficult to understand why Don Lino (De Niro) comes to accept his son Lenny”s differences, and equally difficult to understand when exactly Lenny himself matured enough to embrace his identity. It seems as though the producers had an idea in their mind of where they wanted this movie to begin, a dazzling, colorful under the sea version of Times Square, with Katie Current (Katie Couric) commenting on it all — as well as where they wanted it to end (a broadway number featuring Missy Elliot and Christinia Augeileuria as fish). But they left little thought to what fell in between.

For some people, however, the gloss and glamour of this movie may be all that”s necessary. To see De Niro”s facial expressions captured in those of a Shark, to laugh at the Fresh Prince of Bel Air”s influence on Oscar, and to marvel at the glittering gold in Lola”s (Angelina Jolie) gills could satisfy your desire for cute and colorful entertainment.

Archived article by Jenna Mitchell
Red Letter DAZE Staff Writer