“Get this, it’s computer animated and underwater!
The main characters are fish, and…and sharks! It’s
a classic story of one fish learning to stand on his own
two, uh…fins, and triumphing over adversity!”
not Finding Nemo, but you knew that. It’s
Shark Tale, the latest animated flick out of the
Dreamworks rendering machine. It’s impossible not
to draw comparisons between the two, but I’ll try
to hold off for a while.
Tale takes place in reef version of Manhattan, complete
with coral skyscrapers, billboards, spray-paint wielding
guppies, and a shark mafia prowling the outskirts of town.
The shark Godfather Don Lino (Robert DeNiro, complete with
mole) despairs of his sensitive son Lenny (Jack Black) ever
becoming a true shark and embracing the killer within. Oscar,
a lowly reef fish working at the whale wash (Will Smith)
is desperate to be a “somebody,” and gets himself
into debt ($5000 clams! Yes, clams…isn’t that
clever?) with the mob in the attempt.
a mildly interesting series of events, Oscar and Lenny’s
paths cross when Lenny’s brother Frankie (Michael
Imperioli) is beaned by an anchor and killed. Oscar takes
credit for the death of Frankie and is instantly granted
celebrity status by the reef community as The Shark Slayer.
basically “The Brave Little Tailor” with a whole
bunch of pop-culture references thrown in.
Tale’s cast reads like a Hollywood dream team;
DeNiro, Black, Smith, Angelina Jolie, Renee Zellweger, Marty
Scorcese for Pete’s sake! And yet none of these talented,
bankable performers bring anything other than themselves
to the table. With the exception of Jack Black, who’s
nebbishy Lenny diverges from his usual manic obnoxia, these
mostly Oscar-nominated/winning actors play dumbed-down versions
Yes. Martin Scorsese stands out as Sykes, whale wash owner/mob
toady. Sykes is a blowfish who tends to puff up under emotional
duress and comes equipped with the director's signature
bushy eyebrows. DeNiro also manages to sound genuine when
grieving for his sons, and his character, though stereotypical,
has actual depth. Everyone else just sounds like they’re
phoning it in.
Jolie and Rene Zellweger play two cookie cutter love interests,
and I was more impressed with their sparkly scales than
I was by their characters, though I think I can blame the
writers for that.
brings me to the writers. Now I know that reference humor
sells, and on first viewing this is a very funny movie,
but it won’t hold up. In a few years, when memories
of today’s pop-culture are a little hazier, a lot
of this movie just won’t be funny. With the exception
of some classic references (The Godfather, MC Hammer)
and a few really clever gags…one of them involving
sushi that kicked my ass, there isn’t anything in
this movie that will earn a place in my DVD collection.
is where I start talkin’ Nemo.
Nemo was really funny. I had seagulls saying “Mine?”
posted all over my desk at work, and quotes from Dora and
that neat little French tank cleaning crab were muttered
all over the household. But what made Nemo great
was the heart and beauty of the story, and the depth of
the characters. The humor sprang naturally from the situations
they were in, and their natural reactions to it. Albert
Brooks and Ellen Degeneres don’t have near the drawing
power of Will Smith or Angelina Jolie, but they created
(along with Pixar’s amazing writers and animators)
real characters that the audience cared about and identified
Tale has none of this. It’s a basic low stakes,
sitcom plot, with a whitewash of cheap jokes and stock characters.
The kids will love it, but it won’t have resonance
with them. It won’t offer an opportunity for kids
to think, or feel, or grow, and they won’t take away
any life lessons. It’s entertainment, but it’s