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Oct. 6, 2004

Shark Tale sinks like a stone

by Ravi Umarji, Page Editor
Slap together a star-studded cast and an excellent soundtrack with a plot that goes nowhere and you get disaster. Or, more accurately, you get Shark Tale.

Vicky Jenson, Shark Tale’s director, tries to follow up her success on Shrek, but she fails miserably. Shrek was a movie that was both romantic and comical and spoofed entire genres by poking fun at its own clichéd plot. Shark Tale, however, has none of this self-depreciating charm, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, either. It’s the same old story of the little guy who wants to make it big in the ocean.

This little guy comes in the form of Oscar (Will Smith), a loose-mouthed tongue-scrubber at the “Whale-Wash" (the ocean’s version of a car-wash). Oscar exudes confidence and security, but he really desires to rise from his lowly position in life and live at the top of the reef where everybody who’s anybody lives. Oscar’s financial woes are his undoing, however, and he is taken by his boss, Sykes (Martin Scorsese) to be killed by Sykes’s Rasta jellyfish (there is no conceivable reason for the jellyfish being Rastafarian—the accents have no connection with the plot and completely clash with the rest of the movie). As Sykes swims away, he says in one of many forced Godfather references, “It’s nothing personal, just business."

Meanwhile, Lenny (Jack Black), a self-proclaimed vegetarian shark and son of Don Lino (Robert De Niro), the kingpin Godfather of sharks, is learning to hunt from his brother Frankie (Michael Imperioli). Frankie sees Oscar tied up and being tortured by the Rasta-jellyfish and tries to kill Oscar to show Lenny how to eat fish. Frankie is gored by a falling anchor and Lenny swims away for fear of being blamed for his brother’s death. The Rasta-jellyfish return and see Oscar on a dead shark, and proclaim him “Oscar the Shark-Slayer."

The movie becomes rather one-tracked from here, with many more Godfather jokes jammed into a story that has no major plot twists, and no big surprises. The primary problem with Shark Tale is its predictability. After Angie (Renée Zellweger), another fish, gives Oscar a pearl to pay off his debts and delivers a mushy, over-sentimental speech, the entire plot becomes clear: Oscar will become rich and famous, but he will lose his real identity and the respect of all of his friends. When Oscar goes down to, of all places, the racetracks with a bag full of “clams" (ocean currency—just like the Rasta jellyfish, the reason the directors chose clams as currency is a mystery) to pay off his debt, his failure is inevitable; he is going to lose his money, and neither he nor anyone else can stop it. This is a microcosm of Oscar’s fate in the movie—he constantly fails at life until he starts telling the truth. Since this lesson (a moral, it seems, perhaps taken from Aesop’s Fables) is presented so early in the movie, there is almost no room for variation, and the movie becomes stagnant.

The great tragedy of Shark Tale is the waste of stellar acting performances. While first-class acting cannot overcome a shoddy script, these actors certainly make a valiant effort. De Niro and Black are the standouts as the antithetical father and son. Their relationships and interactions with each other and other sharks are absolutely hilarious, and, unlike all of the other running jokes in the movie, they stay fresh simply because of the actors.

Shark Tale is like that project you did the night before it was due: all surface, no substance. If you do choose to waste your $8.50 on the movie, however, bring a paper bag, because you may get seasick.

Shark Tale (92 minutes) is rated PG for mild obscenity and crude humor.



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  • Anonymous on October 7, 2004
    movie sounds like crap
  • shark tale lover on October 7, 2004
    WHAT!!! That was a superb movie, u are all biast freaks!!! I mean this is almost as bad as The Washington Post saying that the Flogging Molly's lead singer sounds like "popeye gargling a cat." Seriously, none of u guys have any idea what true comedy is. Find a new reviewer!!!
  • sam on October 7, 2004
    clams are a nickname for money. thats why they chose it
  • Kandace Heard (View Email) on October 7, 2004
    In this article it says that "Shark Tale" was horrible.If I remeber correctly "Shark Tale" came in #1 at the box office.This is just how I feel,but if something is #1 it must be good.Maybe somebody on the paper didn't like it it but I personally thought it was nice and a good children's film.So if this was a critique from staff it should have been from a 5 or 6 year old.Those are my thoughts.
  • Armin Rosen (View Email) on October 7, 2004
    "If I remeber correctly "Shark Tale" came in #1 at the box office.This is just how I feel,but if something is #1 it must be good."

    Well "Fahrenheit 9/11" was also a box office #1, so this obviously isn't the case.
  • g on October 10, 2004
    a lot of things are number 1 at the box office and are complete crap. think of all the huge actions films that make tons of money. what are they? just a ton of special effects. yet people like to see stuff get blown up, so they go see them.

    being number 1 is a lot more to do with advertising and getting the word out than it is about the substance of the movie.
  • hello on October 11, 2004
    "Shark Tale" was a great movie. Everyone from my baby sister to my great-grandmother enjoyed it. Do you always give bad reviews just to have something to write about? If you don't know how to review a movie, then don't. Leave it to us to rate it for ourselves. Anyone would rather waste $8.50 on a movie than listen to that bull article.
  • LOCS on October 12, 2004
    What an awful article. Though Sharktale was no oscar winner it certainly had it's moments. There are many hysterical parts to the film and the script writers were very clever in adapting todays modern nuances to fit the underwater world of the characters. This article is far too opinionated and prevents the reader from even forming their own view of the film. It is also filled with overly-sarcastic comments such as (there is no conceivable reason for the jellyfish being Rastafarian—the accents have no connection with the plot and completely clash with the rest of the movie) and remarks designed to be cute but really end up being stupid. Yes there is a reason for the jellyfish being rastafarian, it's funny! People laughed because the two were probably the funniest characters in the whole film. Plus that comment "ocean currency—just like the Rasta jellyfish, the reason the directors chose clams as currency is a mystery" is neither funny nor cute, but is instead lame and unclever. To the author, you need to do some major research buddy on every day life before writing your next movie review.
  • wadz (View Email) on October 17, 2004
    dude this film is 4 kids so why would a 40 year-old vergin like you 'waste your $8.50 on the movie'
  • luke (View Email) on October 17, 2004
    the reason he chose rasta jellyfish is because it looks like they have rasta hats on with dreds
  • ehhh (View Email) on November 12, 2004
    meh
    i cant complain
    but it wasnt really a barrel of laughs
  • person on November 15, 2004
    but why the rasta hats in the first place?
  • awesome on November 28, 2004
    I know this is a little late...but this review nailed the movie on the head! this movie was SO stupid. I don'tknow what you guys are talking about, especially LOCS...the rasta guys were NOT the funniest characters in the film, that was definitely Lenny. LOCS you aredefinitely out of your mind, this film sucked
  • Anonymous on January 1, 2005 at 9:27 PM
    why would a "40 year-old vergin" be writing for a school newspaper?
  • Chadlee on March 25, 2005 at 4:51 PM
    Shark tale was a really good movie, your review was too much, or it sucked. How could you. there was some cheesy ending but overall the movie was good, I would tell anyone to watch it especially for the reggae jellyfish, and Robert Dinero playing the shark mob boss, well I have to say those were genius ideas.
    I give this movie 8 stars
  • to chadlee on April 2, 2005 at 12:01 AM
    uh...no, the movie sucked, the author was write, and he wrote it really well too. Chadlee, you don't know what you're talking about..."especailly for the regagae jellyfish"???????? Uhh they werekinda stupid, and they didnt really relate.

    Review was funny, movie was not.
  • tiesha (View Email) on November 8, 2005 at 10:45 AM
    Just because it is a cartoon doesn't make it for children. Maybe these actors wanted to do something more on the lighter side of acting. Something a little less serious. I thought it was a funny movie, of for entertainment purposes only. Every thing isn't about oscars and emmys.
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