Oscar: Hi, I’m Oscar. You might think you know, but you have no idea
Beware: Spoilers may follow
Ah Dreamworks: They’re definitely are one of the fortresses that has proven to be capable of holding their own against the animated titans of Disney and Pixar and establishing their own unique identity of movies in the process in terms of story, characters, and animation. Unfortunately for every fantastic one they’ve done they’ve also made a fantastic blunder. And this without a doubt is the worst of them.
The story involves underachiever fish Oscar who works at a whale wash and has dreams of fame and fortune. When mafia great white shark Frankie is accidentally killed in an accident Oscar formulates a deal with Frankie’s peaceful vegetarian brother Lenny to make it look like Oscar is the killer. Thus, Oscar is hailed as the famous “shark slayer” among the sea and his dreams have come true. Unfortunately, trouble arises when Frankie and Lenny’s father mafia leader Don Lino sends henchmen to track down Oscar and kill him to avenge his son’s death.
The movie is filled with all sorts of celebrity voices for these fish including Will Smith, Jack Black, Robert DeNiro, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, and I don’t have anything against celebrity voices but all of them are barely putting forth the effort. They were clearly picked not because their voices were suitable to portray these characters but rather Dreamworks thought their big names alone would get people in the seats and it shows right off the opening credits rather than establish a unique identity involving a world and characters. And the rest of the movie shines with this laziness with an endless barrage of catchphrases, in-jokes, dated pop culture references, a soundtrack composed of popular artists at the time, and terrible puns. It just feels like something that was taken from focus groups and statistics rather than something that wanted to make a genuine work of art.
The animation fares no better honestly as the underwater world looks really dirty and musty with a dark and dull feel to it. The only upside is that the does give way to one of the movie’s more creative ideas which is that of the whale wash. That and the sharks have a relatively clean design. But when you look at other movies involving the sea like Finding Nemo or heck even the Little Mermaid (even though the latter is 2D animation compared to Shark Tale’s 3D animation) the underwater world gave a sense of wonder and the camerawork and a colors had a unique way of showing how the ocean world was full of friends and foes alike. But by far the worst part of the animation goes to the character designs which look UGLY! The huge lips, and the attempt to combine these human and fish just is horrifying to look at all throughout the movie.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my experiences of movies it’s that if you have solid characters and/or story to fall back on you can overcome almost anything. Yeah…about that: So many of these characters are nothing short of shallow, conceited and just complete idiots. And it’s not even in a charming way. An example of this involves his friend Angie at one point giving him a pearl that belonged to her family that’s worth a lot of money to get him out of debt but rather than do that he decides to take it to bet it on a race. And it sometimes comes to the point where it just outright endangers his friends. Then there’s Lola who is pretty much only into Oscar as far as his riches take him. Perhaps the least unlikable character is Angie but even I just feel bad for her complete blind faith in Oscar. In a much cleverer movie, I may have liked Lenny more but man is Jack Black’s voice for him irritating. The story of Oscar wanting to be a somebody and him having to learn that being a nobody is okay. But the dialogue has no depth or substance to it. So much of it is just an attempt to appear hip and with it and it borders on pandering.
Shark Tale may have its fair share of nostalgic fans but despite being in its target audience around the time it came out I certainly am not one of them. As a kid I just found it to be plain forgettable and not among the animated movies that would have an influence on me. As an adult I like it even less. Its story is uninspired, its characters are terrible, its animation is ugly, its voice acting is devoid of any life, and overall does nothing for kids or adults. No matter how many mediocre kids’ movies Dreamworks may be doing now it doesn’t get any lower than this. This is just a movie that needs to sleep with the fishes.