Shark Tale
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron, Rob Letterman
scr Michael J Wilson, Rob Letterman
voices Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, Angelina Jolie, Ziggy Marley, Doug E Doug, Vincent Pastore, Michael Imperioli, Peter Falk, Katie Couric
release USA 1.Oct.04, UK 15.Oct.04
04/US 1h40

In the secret hideout: Oscar, Lenny and Angie

smith deniro zellweger
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If you think this looks like a Finding Nemo knock-off, don't worry: It's simply a silly bit of undersea fluff, much more like Shrek in that sense, jammed to the gills with pop culture references and fishy puns. Thoroughly entertaining, but no subtext whatsoever.

Oscar (Smith) is in trouble with a loan shark--actually a loan puffer fish--named Sykes (Scorsese). Then when he's the only fish present when a shark is accidentally killed, he becomes Oscar the Shark Slayer, and with Sykes as his agent is propelled to stardom in his coral-reef city. This leaves his love-struck coworker (Zellweger) worrying that she'll lose out to a gold-digging bombshell (Jolie). But the dead shark was the son of mafioso Don Lino (De Niro), whose other son (Black) isn't living up to expectations. Now Lino wants revenge.

The animation is extremely lively, constantly moving to the rhythms of the underwater urban landscape. And the fish themselves are cleverly drawn to resemble the actors who give them voices--although the anthropomorphism is out of control as the fish adopt a bit too much human physicality. Still, the strong vocal cast make the characters spring to life, full of attitude and hilariously bouncing off each other (Scorsese is especially wonderful). The witty dialog and sight gags keep us paying close attention, and ensure that adults won't be bored while the colourful action keeps the kids enthralled.

But it's all extremely simplistic; there are mild attempts at emotion and moral lessons about loyalty and integrity, but those things are just part of the formula really. The film is just lively fun, densely jammed with comedy titbits that keep us chuckling and puns that keep us groaning. Racial stereotypes are dangerously close to the surface but just avoid being offensive--the sharks are a death-obsessed Italian-Jewish mob, Sykes' henchmen (Marley and Doug) are goofy Rasta jellyfish. But it's so innocuous that virtually no one could ever get angry about it. In fact, the whole film could've used sharper teeth, frankly.

cert U some adult themes and suspense 1.Oct.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall