Whale of a Tale
Thursday, September 30, 2004
When each new 3-D animation feature from Dreamworks or Pixar defines the latest state-of-the-art CG, it’s enough to watch just to see these CG wizards at their technological and creative best. When good scripting and characterization, smart comedic dialogue and an all-star cast is added, the movie is sure to be a winner. And it is. Shark Tale is funny, technologically brilliant and full of attractive, smart-talking, recognizable characters. The underlying message isn’t too saccharine, and works for the most part, for both kids and adults.
One of the most attractive attributes of Shark Tale is that the fishy characters all have the caricatured features of the actors giving them voice. Will Smith’s elegant little cleaner-fish Oscar has his wide grin and pseudo-innocent eyes; angel-fish Angie narrows her eyes exactly as Renée Zellweger does, especially when she’s mad; and the godfather shark Don Lino played by Robert De Niro has his mole.
The story of Shark Tale brings to mind the fairy tale of the slightly built tailor who, having swiped seven flies at once, advertised this slightly edited feat on a sash saying “Seven At One Blow,” thus intentionally deceiving everyone he subsequently meets as to his fighting prowess. Cleaner-fish Oscar has a lowly job at the bottom (read “down-town”) of the Reef as a tongue-scrubber in the Whale Wash. He’s a charming scallywag who owes money and has no idea that his sweet work-mate Angie not only has romantic dreams of him but also how much she covers for his slackness at work. The sudden accidental death of a predator shark has Oscar opportunistically declaring himself a “Sharkslayer.” The rest of the movie is about Oscar’s rise to the coveted “top of the reef” due to this whopper and his adventures and misadventures with a vegetarian shark named Lenny (Jack Black), beautiful, gold-digging hanger-on Lola (Jolie) and an entrepreneurial puffer-fish called Sykes (Martin Scorsese.) Lenny’s journey and Oscar’s become intertwined in each getting what they think they want, and somehow all the tangled strands work out.
Themes of social pretence versus self-acceptance and acceptance of others, as well as the importance of true values of love, friendship and loyalty are set in an underwater simulacrum of New York’s Times Square. By the end of the movie Oscar has presumably discovered not only his true love Angie but also the deeper values of his life and as well has brokered an improbable arrangement with the sharks
Shark Tale is a tour de force, where some weakness of plot is counterbalanced by technical virtuosity, combined with popular cultural musical icons. A movie assured of a big catch.
Review first published at www.movie-vault.com
SHARK TALE ( * * * )
Directed by Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron, Rob Letterman
Starring Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, Peter
Falk, Ziggy Marley.
(Rated PG, 100 min.)