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Shark Tale

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Shark Tale
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This is the result of what happens, when DreamWorks try to copy Shrek's formula, while misunderstanding it's appeal, and also wanting to be like Finding Nemo at the same time.
Genre: Comedy
Fantasy
Animation
Directed By: Vicky Jenson
Bibo Bergeron
Rob Letterman
Written By: Michael J. Wilson
Rob Letterman
Starring: Will Smith
Robert De Niro
Renée Zellweger
Jack Black
Angelina Jolie
Martin Scorsese
Photography: Color
Distributed By: DreamWorks Pictures
Release Date: September 10, 2004 (Venice)
October 1, 2004 (United States)
Runtime: 90 minutes
Country: United States


"Shark Tale is such an atrocious movie and I don’t understand how people like it. With that said, I love this movie. I am obsessed with it. [...] Literally, every single thing people hate about DreamWorks is in this movie. It is the perfect storm of awfulness, that only comes once in a blue moon. It's probably the true worst DreamWorks movie, but I can't realistically rank it last, because it is a joy to watch and think about, and meme, and absolutely be baffled by. I am never bored watching Shark Tale, I am always fully alert and attentive. I adore this movie, and my obsession with it has only grown with time. And that's because it is, without a doubt, a cinematic disaster."
Schaffrillas Productions

Shark Tale is a 2004 American computer-animated comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation, directed by Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron, and Rob Letterman. It stars Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, and Martin Scorsese (yes, THAT Martin Scorsese).

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 10, 2004, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 1.

Plot

Underachiever Oscar is a pint-sized fish with grand aspirations. When mob-connected great white shark Frankie is accidentally killed, Oscar concocts a story with Frankie's peace-loving brother Lenny that it was he who murdered the shark. Suddenly hailed "Sharkslayer" by his aquatic brethren, Oscar has bigger fish to fry when Frankie's father, mob boss Don Lino, dispatches his henchmen to track down his son's killer.

Bad Qualities

  1. Some of the characters either have mediocre characterization or follow cliché and racial stereotypes:
    • Oscar, while fairly likable and sympathetic, is somewhat generic, as he is presented as an immature narcissist who has a shallow dream of being rich and famous and does not fully appreciate the things that matter in life.
    • Ernie and Bernie, Sykes’ two jellyfish henchmen, are very annoying comic reliefs and are portrayed as Jamaican stereotypes.
  2. Not very good attempts at humor which consist of mediocre fish-related puns and a brief scene where a fish is shown trying to run a sushi business, the latter of which would be considered cannibalism if a fish citizen were to eat said sushi.
  3. Lackluster and hideous computer animation, considering how this was DreamWorks' first fully computer-animated feature without Pacific Data Images (PDI).
    • The visuals, themselves, are also washed-out and appear to be of rather low quality. For comparison's sake, underwater films like Finding Nemo had a very bright and vivid color palette and actively went out of their way to make the underwater world look as colorful and eye-catching as possible. But here, there aren't any particularly bright colors and most of them look dull and bland.
  4. Rather uncanny designs for the characters, with Oscar outright resembling his voice actor, Will Smith; the fact that the facial designs of the characters resemble their voice actors are rather distressing, and it is even considered somewhat grotesque. The bad-looking animation doesn't help either.
  5. The story is very predictable, mainly since it follows the "liar revealed" cliché, and even after Oscar confesses in the end, everyone easily forgives him, even after he spent most of the film manipulating everyone.
    • The film also ends with the overused and clichéd "dance party ending" trope with everyone. Which is ridiculously overused, especially when it comes to Dreamworks films.
  6. Pacing issues, with several scenes dragging on like the characters talking way too much.
  7. Huge Plot Hole: How does everyone, literally everyone, immediately believes Oscar's lie about him killing Frankie to the point where he becomes a celebrity and gets placed in advertisements and stuff despite the fact that his story sounds way too fictional and fanciful. No one asks for proof or evidence. In real life, no one would've believed him right away, he would have to proof his words by killing more sharks; he does that later in the movie when he fakes killing Lenny, but its way after he becomes famous.
    • It also doesn't make sense that at the end, no one is mad at Oscar for lying to them and easily forgive him rather than putting him in prison for fraud.
  8. The film's target audience is unclear, as it constantly vacillates between juvenile humor and references to popular culture; in particular, the ending tries to have a moral about tolerance but gets bogged down by the constant juvenile humor, therefore not treating the issue with any measure of dignity or seriousness.
  9. The film never seems to let up with the LGBTQ+ symbolism angle involving Lenny, with it having all of the subtlety of a cannonball being shot at your face.
  10. The "best buddies"-like friendship between Oscar and Lenny also feels rather rushed. Especially because he was taking credit for the murder of his brother and didn't even confess to it being a lie at the time.
    • Lola working for the shark mafia also pretty much comes out of nowhere and feels rushed.
  11. Excessive out-of-place and pointless references to popular culture, including references to The Godfather trilogy and another DreamWorks-distributed movie The Ring (the latter as a horror film titled The Hook). For comparison, it worked in Shrek and its sequel because while they are funny if the viewer gets the references, they still fit within the context of specific scenes, even if the viewer doesn't get the reference. On the other hand, Shark Tale just uses random quotes from other films, some of which are either rated PG-13 or R in the United States, which would be difficult for younger viewers to understand and would lead them to question as to why, for example, Oscar is stating random sentences with a lack of context or meaning.
  12. Sub-par voice acting; the use of celebrity voices was also pointless and seemed to be merely a way to draw in audiences so they could get money.
  13. In one scene Oscar describes how nobody "loved [him] as a nobody," which is undermined by how there are people who clearly like him, as shown earlier in the film. As he has a large number of friends at his job at the whale wash like Angie, Ernie, and Bernie.
  14. Major lack of heart or charm. Which is inexcusable since Dreamworks films have been known for their unique sense of charm, such as (but not limited to) The Shrek films (excluding Shrek the Third) and the Kung Fu Panda franchise.
  15. In a few instances, the film lacks subtlety:
    • In a few instances, Angie says the kind of things the audience would be thinking during those specific moments, notably in one scene where she states to Oscar, "What did you expect? You just take credit for killing a shark and then everything would be fine and dandy for the rest of your life?"
    • Lola literally tells Oscar, "Deep down, I'm really superficial."
  16. The underwater setting is almost completely pointless and was probably just shoehorned in to cash in on Finding Nemo. If the film had a human cast and took place in a city on land, little to nothing in the film's story would actually change.

Good Qualities

  1. The original soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer is great and is a combination of rock, hip-hop, and real pop performed by talented artists such as Will Smith (the main protagonist), Mary J. Blige, Ziggy Marley (who played one of the jellyfish brothers), Missy Elliott, India.Arie, Ludcaris, Hans Zimmer, The Pussycat Dolls, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Agiluera.
  2. Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, and Jack Black do a pretty good job as voice actors.
    • Will Smith as Oscar not only did a good job voicing him, but he's also pretty good as a singer.
  3. The concept of an underwater city is somewhat interesting despite being a mere parody.
  4. Some hilarious moments here and there, with some of them being caused by deliveries of several of the cast members in light of their negative qualities.
    • Despite his many flaws, Oscar is a fun protagonist, with his likable moments and decent character development.
    • Lenny can be humorous at times and is also somewhat likable.
    • Sykes is also the most likable character in the movie.
    • Several of the side characters can be also seen as likable to some, Luca The Octopus for example.
  5. Don Lino is an entertaining and sympathetic antagonist, as he wants what is best for his family and his anger towards Oscar claiming to kill his son Frankie is justified.
  6. The film provides a powerful message about the downsides of fame, the meaning of friendship, and the importance of self-acceptance.
  7. It has its share of heartwarming moments.
    • The shrimp that Don Lino attempted to force Lenny to eat tells his stories about struggling to take care of his family and working full time, providing a sympathetic tone.
    • The scene of Frankie's death and his funeral attended by other sharks was very touching.
    • Oscar gives Angie her grandmother's pearl to her after he got famous, showing how much he appreciates her and their friendship.
    • Oscar opens up to Lenny's vegetarianism and tries to help him get over Frankie's death.
  8. The fact that Oscar, the protagonist, is shown in a more negative light and Don Lino, the antagonist, is shown in a more positive light highlights the fact that the line between heroism and villainy is quite thin, which can be reflected in real life through the Yin Yang.
  9. This film is considered to be the closest thing to a hood film without humans in it, as it depicts certain aspects of urban life from the perspective of marine animals.
  10. The final showdown between Oscar and Don Lino is quite epic and comedic at the same time.

Reception

Shark Tale has received mostly mixed-to-negative reviews from moviegoers and critics alike, with criticism aimed at its story, lack of originality, amount of pop culture references, racial stereotypes, unsettling character designs, and humor, though some of the performances (particularly Black and Scorsese) were praised, and has even gone down as one of, if not, the weakest films produced by DreamWorks Animation (until Spirit Untamed.)

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 36% based on 183 reviews, with an average rating of 5.15/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Derivative and full of pop culture in-jokes." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 48 out of 100 based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.

Trivia

  • Jack Black and Angelina Jolie both later starred together in the Kung Fu Panda films as Po and Tigress, respectively.
  • The film was originally titled Sharkslayer, but it was retitled to Shark Tale to make the title sound less violent and more kid-friendly.
  • This is the first computer-animated film by DreamWorks Animation to be produced at their Glendale studio.
    • This also marks the only computer-animated film by DreamWorks Animation to be produced at their Glendale studio that was theatrically released by DreamWorks Pictures. Beginning with Over The Hedge, their films would be distributed by Paramount Pictures from 2005 to 2012, followed by 20th Century Fox from 2013 to 2017, and Universal Studios from 2018 onwards.
  • Oscar hitting Marty in the face became a popular internet joke after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in the face at the 2022 Oscars.

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