A Review of the 2004 Film Shark Tale
Image courtesy of Flickr/Peabody AwardsThe first thing you need to know about Shark Tale, an animated movie aimed at a family audience and young people, is that it constantly references mob movies/television like The Godfather and Goodfellas. It features voice acting from Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Michael Imperioli, even Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore from The Sopranos. This means that at no point in the years-long process of developing this film did anyone say, “Hold up folks, how many kindergartners have a working knowledge of the John Cazale oeuvre?”
The other thing you need to know is that there was another, better animated movie about ocean creatures released the previous year called Finding Nemo. These films were allegedly developed at the same time, with the main difference being that Finding Nemo is good and Shark Tale has Angelina Jolie and references to a movie from 1972.
The plot follows Oscar (voiced by Will Smith, TV’s The Fresh Prince), a working-class fish who works at a whale-washing business and dreams of a better life. He finds himself in debt and his friend Angie (Renee Zellweger, Empire Records) gives him a pearl to pay it off. He instead wagers it on a sea horse race—they’re underwater, remember—and the sea horse he bets on loses.
Oscar finds himself, um, underwater with the mafia sharks, who come to collect. Ernie and Bernie (Ziggy Marley and Doug E. Doug, because why not) subdue him, but he’s freed by Lenny (Jack Black, one half of acoustic rock duo Tenacious D), a vegetarian shark who refuses to eat him. Lenny’s brother Frankie (Imperioli, Christahfuh) finds this appalling and attacks Oscar, but is felled by a falling anchor. Oscar’s fellow sea creatures believe he killed Frankie, and he doesn’t disabuse him of that notion.
And there’s the plot driver for the rest of the film, as Oscar exploits his reputation as a shark conqueror for the recognition he’s always craved, losing true friends like Angie, angering the big shark mob boss (DeNiro, Dirty Grandpa), and getting a hot new fish girlfriend (Jolie, Hackers). Does Oscar get found out? Does he realize that living a virtuous, honest life is more important than money? Did I already mention that Peter Falk (Lieutenant Columbo) plays a leopard shark with gastrointestinal issues?
I give this film 2 out of 4 stars, and you can find it on DVD at every Goodwill and rummage sale in the United States of America.
Image license here.
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