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Shark Tale
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2004

Format: Movie
By:   Bibo Bergeron/Vicky Jenson (Directors)
Genre:   Animation/Comedy
Released:   October 1, 2004
Review Date:   October 04, 2004
Audience Rating:   PG
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

Is it wrong that I find Angelina Jolie strikingly hot as a fish?

I bring this up for two reasons. First, this is the second movie this summer where Ms. Jolie has stolen the sex appeal spotlight from the lead female. Second, it's the character animations that are the best part of Shark Tale. The animators really nailed the look of their voice actors. It's like someone stole the noses off the main cast and stuck fins on them. Will Smith's Oscar has Will's jug ears, as jug fins. Martin Scorsese's fish Sykes has Martin's bushy eyebrows. It's very well done for all the characters.

Sadly, as I mentioned, it's one of the few high points of the film.

Here's the skinny. Oscar is a nobody . . . er, a no-fish. He works in a whale wash (which provides the film's mandatory gross jokes) as a tongue cleaner. Yes, a tongue cleaner. He wants to find some way, any way, to stop being a nobody and move up to the top of the reef. He struggles along at the bottom, oblivious to the fact that his friend and co-worker Angie (Rene Zellweger) is madly in love with him.

In his quest to crawl up from the bottom, Oscar has come up with a few hundred get-rich-quick schemes that he somehow convinced his boss Sykes to fund, to the point where Oscar is into him for 5,000 clams. When Sykes needs all the cash back to pay off Don Lino (Robert De Niro), head of the Shark Mafia, the plot kicks into gear.

What follows is a sprawling, quick-moving story about how some people will do anything for fame, the price of fame based on a lie, and how you should be happy with what you have.

While Oscar wants to be rich, Don Lino has his own problems, in that he wants to hand off his empire to his sons Frankie and Lenny (Jack Black). Unfortunately, Lenny is a complete failure as a shark (he's a vegetarian softie). Lino gives him one last chance to prove himself. It is here that Oscar and Lenny cross paths. One mishap later, and Frankie is dead. Yes, they really kill him. It's been a while since we had a real death in an animated flick. Oscar takes credit for the kill, making him the Shark Slayer and protector of the reef. Lenny, believing that he can't go home after the death of his brother, teams up with Oscar to try and survive in the reef, and together they scam more people promoting Oscar's shark-killing abilities.

From here it's a buddy movie, a lesson movie, and a mob parody. There are some good performances, especially from Angelina as a gold-digging fish, Scorsese, Smith, the Rasta jellyfish, and a crazy hermit crab. But with the caliber of talent on hand, that's not too surprising. There are a few laugh-out-loud gags (the sushi bar, for instance). We all know this "be happy with what you have" lesson, and it's been told better. The animation is amazing, but these days, that's to be expected.

Overall, however, the film is a bit . . . lacking. The high points are few, and while the film is enjoyable it doesn't really stick with you. It simply lacks the "oomph" of Shrek and the heart of the Pixar films. I recommend that you either see it as a matinee or wait for video.

RevSF contributor Gary Mitchel is just three reviews away from earning the title RevSF Spankmuppet.

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