Shark Tale Movie Review
Shark Tale is a 2004 animated crime comedy film that is usually regarded as one of the worst or the very worst from the company where in reality it is quite an okay film and even a bit underrated.
It is about a fish named Oscar who pretends to have killed a shark of a famous mob boss, a shark who is vegetarian and can’t kill and eat fish much to his father’s displeasure. Now, it is a very obvious and incredibly predictable movie. Way too predictable. And it is filled with many aspects that are mediocre, but more on that later. However, what people don’t get is that it is a perfectly fine film, at least it was for me. It is far from a good movie, but it is certainly not bad either. The story is immensely entertaining and always interesting and at times even intriguing. What I liked about is that it linked the two subplots into a coherent whole and that both of those stories were interesting. And it means well, although the emotion is more forced than anything else and it rarely is really impactful.
The characters are pretty solid, typical, but solid and overall stupendously well developed. Oscar has his moments and is funny at times, but is overall too hip to be enjoyed more. And the whole movie feels like that unfortunately. Lenny is great as this weird shark who likes fish and is definitely my favorite character in this entire film. The relationship between the two is also finely realized. Angie is okay, but the relationship between Oscar and her is way too cliched. Lola is a typical female character that only plays on sexiness appeal and is the worst in my opinion. Sykes is a typical mob boss but is well realized. And the rest of the characters are only used for comic relief and not with any real purpose. And they are rarely funny as well.
This is again a star-studded cast which I honestly really dislike when it comes to DreamWorks Animation. And although most of them did a fine job, it was still bothersome to me. Will Smith is really good as always and Robert de Niro is also the hihglight. However, they do not belong here. The character design is awful but more on that later. And you can see and hear instantly that it is Will Smith, that it is de Niro and that is the problem Shark Tale never overcame. Also, some of the actors really just do not fit which is the case with Jack Black as Lenny. I just never saw his voice suitable for this character and whenever he spoke, it created this weird jarring feel to me. It just didn’t work, although Jack Black and everyone else admittedly did a pretty good job.
The humor is so-so. This is the reason why I said in my review of ‘Shrek‘ how that movie ruined American animation. This is literally a copy of that film in terms of humor. And whereas the previous film used it sparingly, Shark Tale uses is too much greater extent which is super annoying. The whole pop-culture references really got on my nerve, especially the one-liners taken from famous gangster movies. That was just too on-the-nose and never funny. I also disliked its tendency to include product placement with the very first shot of the film featuring Coca Cola. That was just awful. But it is not terribly unfunny as Will Smith’s character really has some funny moments and lines executed solidly and producing some laughs. But those are just rare unfortunately.
The soundtrack is of course horrible. Once again, they use every modern and famous song they can think of and that is just never funny nor amusing but just incredibly frustrating and never suitable. I hate DreamWorks for doing this because their films would be much better if they did not rely so heavily on those references and popular songs. It really bothers me and takes me out of the movie.
Another aspect that really bothered me (and now you can see that the movie is immensely flawed) is definitely its animation. Shark Tale, simply put, has terrible animation. There is no other way to say it. It is God-awful. The backgrounds overall are a step backwards from the previous movies and it just looks like dated CGI. But the biggest offender is most definitely the character design. They took the actors’ faces and put them on the faces of all of these fish characters and… you can see where this is going. It just looks horrible. Even despicable to look at. It never mashes together, it never is appropriate and it never is even a bit pleasant. It also creates caricatures of these actors and that is what it is honestly – caricaturing. It looks awfully unpleasant and disgusting to look at. It was such an unprofessional choice from the filmmakers. I get that they were trying to do something new, but this is no way to do it. It ruined the movie for me and if the characters were better animated, it would have been a much better film. It just might be the worst character design I have ever seen.
It is not well directed nor paced. The first act is too rushed and the whole movie is awfully fast paced. The ending is ridiculous, but the second act is the standout with the best and most enjoyable moments. The score and animation are mediocre, but the tone is solid with the comedy and crime story well mashed together. And it creates a solid parody of the genre. The humor also is solid at times, but mostly too on-the-nose. And although predictable, the whole idea of the film and the script and premise is genuinely interesting and, if better executed, it would have been much more enjoyable. It is not the worst DreamWorks film for sure, but it is on the lower parts of the list definitely.