Shark Tale (2004)


Shark Tale (2004)


Shark Tale is a winning story following a Will Smith talking fish and his quest to become the richest fish in an immersive sea city. Watch Will Smith fish face difficult conflicts, such as… choosing between his best friend and Angelina Jolie fish… choosing whether or not he should gamble his best friend’s money away… and choosing to either wash whales or fight sharks for a living (even though he really can’t fight sharks).

Have your imagination captured by the countless fish puns in this movie. Let your mind ponder important questions, such as… Why am I watching this when I could be watching Finding Nemo? Why does best friend Angie even like Will Smith fish? Why is DreamWorks condoning the pursuit of money when that is exactly what they are doing here?

My dad bought a DVD copy because of all the big names on the front cover. For all the rotten reviews it has received, Shark Tale is a triumph in marketing, bringing in $367 million dollars worldwide. I guess that’s DreamWorks magic for ya.

Verdict: Properly Rated

Favorite moment: When Angelina Jolie fish beats the crap out of Will Smith fish. May have been the only time I was happy, out of sheer hate for Will Smith fish.


I hadn’t seen Shark Tale prior to writing this article. It took me all of five minutes to realize I wasn’t going to like it. Rather than crap on it with snark — which, believe me, it deserves — I decided I may as well make the most of the 63 minutes I spent watching it (1.3x playback speed on VLC), and took some notes.

Thus, I present some constructive arguments that Shark Tale is a poor animated movie that completely lives up to its reputation as bland boardroom-conceived merchandise-hawking tripe:

  • The story of Shark Tale does not take advantage of the fact that the movie is animated. The script would require only a quick revision before being the screenplay of an equally bland PG-13 live-action crime comedy. If you run down any list of the greatest animated movies ever, practically all of them REQUIRE animation. Can you fathom The Incredibles or The Lion King possibly being shot as a live action film?
  • This movie came out a year after Finding Nemo, so the two fishy comedies begs comparison. Nemo is one of the best animated movies ever, so it’s no surprise this makes Shark Tale look even more uninspired. Remember the awe you felt the first time you saw Nemo? It’s incredible setting design, sublime sound engineering, and perfect cinematography really grip you. Shark Tale has none of that craft. It comes back to my previous point — none of Shark Tale plays to animation’s ability to defy physical reality.
  • The visuals of this movie are lame. You don’t have to be gorgeous to be a great animated movie (it helps though), but you need to design your film accordingly if your looks aren’t there. Toy Story still looks acceptable despite its plastic-y, oblong graphics… because toys are SUPPOSED to look plastic-y and oblong. 101 Dalmations has a jazzy, loose vibe that makes its sketch-like graphics feel appropriate. But Shark Tale makes no such ameliorations, putting its funky visuals front and center. The anthropomorphic fish faces are totally in the uncanny valley.
  • Kevin described “the struggle” in his discussion of Beauty and the Beast. There are other ways you can name it — conflict, stakes, non-shitty script — but, whatever you call it, it’s completely absent from Shark Tale. At no point did I feel any characters were in any true danger. There were a few problems in this regard: The movie adhered so tightly to formula that you knew no surprises were coming. The movie never convinced me that Will Smith’s life was that bad as a whale-washer, so I didn’t care whether he rich and famous or not. And Jack Black as a gay vegetarian shark was so carefree and goofy that I didn’t care whether his family embraced him (mostly because it felt like he didn’t care).
  • The jokes are sooooo bad. You can do these types of jokes well — Shrek mines plenty of comedy out of tearing down pop culture cliches, for example — but none of them worked here. The specific cultural references are the cheapest type of joke: “You are familiar with this thing… hilarious, right?” There’s no irony or defied expectations or satire. Just listing things you’ve heard of… MAYBE with a fish pun. And the “urban” style talk is clearly intended to be funny, but it’s just painful. Will Smith saying “OLLLLD SCHOOOL!” is not intrinsically hilarious, as much as I love the guy. There needs to be the framework of some other joke there. And I actually felt bad for Martin Scorsese’s bit at the end when his character puts on a pimp hat and says “yo” over and over.
  • The script… egads, is it too much to ask professional screen writers to create actual characters? The little life that’s in these caricatures comes from the charm of the voice acting. The writing gives you no nuance or depth. Zilch. There are barely even identifiable traits to most of the characters. The worst offender is Angelina Jolie’s fish, who comes right out and tells Will Smith in her first scene that “deep down, I’m really superficial.” WTF? Was somebody paid for this script?
  • The most noteworthy aspect of this movie is definitely the thinly veiled metaphor of Jack Black’s shark vegetarianism for homosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a poorly executed metaphor: It falls into the trap that many comedies with gay characters do of making the shark super flamboyant and wacky. (At least he doesn’t speak in a lisp.) But the existence of this metaphor is still interesting, I think. (And it already feels outdated; culture’s perception of LGBT issues has evolved a lot in the past decade.)
  • The one thing I really liked in this movie was the voice acting. If the script were even remotely competent, the great voice acting might have redeemed this into “watchable” status. DeNiro is the best — imbuing a non-character with legitimate pathos — and Scorsese is a delight, too. Ziggy Marley and Doug E. Doug as rastafarian jelly fish steal all their scenes. Will Smith, of course, has charm in spades. Renee Zellweger is fine, but Angelina Jolie doesn’t even pretend that this is anything other than a quick paycheck.

Okay, that’s several hundred more words than Shark Tale deserves. Here’s the short version: It sucks.

Verdit: Properly rated

Favorite moment: The moment that gave me the most joy was definitely the ending credits.

Final Grade: F (21%)–“WTF? Was somebody paid for this script?”

For the full article: http://earnthis.net/animation-evaluation-dreamworks-1998-2006/

6 Replies to “Shark Tale (2004)”

  1. I remember watching this film a while back. I actually still have the DVD. I haven’t watched in about 5 years, and I kind of don’t want to. I’ve heard nothing but hate for this film. The only good thing I can remember is the fact that Will Smith is in it. And who doesn’t love Will Smith?

    I was not surprised by your rating on this film. It is certainly interesting to hear how many ways a film can go wrong!

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