Dreamworks proves that in animated films, an all-star cast doesn't make up for a lack of jokes. Will Smith, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese all have big roles in the mildly entertaining yet ultimately unfulfilling fish movie.
As has been pointed out in just about every review for this movie, themes seem to run in pairs in Hollywood. There was Dante's Peak and Volcano, Deep Impact and Armageddon, and A Bug's Life and Antz - all unique movies in presentation but noticeably similar in both basic plot and release date. Dreamworks must have been devastated when they heard that Pixar, undoubtedly the leader in CGI-movies, was releasing Finding Nemo more than a year before their own fish movie, Shark Tale. The movies are drastically different in many respects, but considering the fact that both movies star computer-animated fish, comparisons are inevitable.
Sadly, Shark Tale disappoints across the board. It has its funny moments and is not without wit, but it definitely lacks the edge that all of the Pixar movies - and Dreamworks' own Shrek franchise - have. While Finding Nemo didn't impress me as much as the other Pixar movies, it had me laughing much of the time. The Toy Story movies had me cracking up from beginning to end. Shrek and Shrek 2 are hilarious. I was on the verge of falling asleep halfway through Shark Tale.
The movie succeeds at the beginning as we are introduced to the undersea world and its characters. The first ten minutes or so present all of the quirky "fish" modifications of human life, such as a failing sushi bar, news reporter Katie Current (played by Katie Couric) and a whale wash instead of a car wash. The reason that CGI is succeeding while traditional animation is failing is because these high-tech movies are capable of making a richer environment that allow the animators to take jabs at modern society. One of the reasons Shark Tale doesn't dazzle is because it stops poking fun at human environments in the first act, whereas most of these other movies (especially Shrek 2) are always showing us new aspects of the world the characters live in. With a little imagination, even lousy scripts can be overlooked with humorous surroundings.
However, the main problem with Shark Tale is that the script just isn't very funny. The movie relies heavily on its voice talent and all of the actors do a good job - of playing themselves in fish format. Most of the characters even have a likeness to their human counterparts. The thing is, most of the dialogue just isn't very witty. Of course, the film does have some good jokes, but it has a lot that are rather bland.
The graphics are pretty good, but compared to Finding Nemo aren't nearly as good. Dreamworks has a little ways to go, apparently.
As far as children go, Shark Tale is a questionable event. Obviously, there is enough on-screen entertainment to keep the kids occupied, but again, the dialogue isn't that funny - even for little kids - and the movie is loaded with hip-hop influences, something that parents may not appreciate and children won't understand. Shark Tale relies heavily on its hip-hop flavor for jokes, but personally I don't find hip-hop stuff that funny.
Shark Tale has its moments and is worth seeing on video, but it just barely manages to stay afloat.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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