Oscar (voice of Will Smith) works at the Whale Wash; that's where cleaner fish clean whales. Obviously. Angie (Renee Zellwegger) is the angel fish receptionist who is secretly in love with him, despite Oscar being unreliable and dreaming of making it big at the top of the reef in his own penthouse. Oscar finds himself in the wrong place one day as Don Lino (Robert DeNiro) send his tough son Frankie (Michael Imperioli) to teach his softie son, Lenny (Jack Black) how to kill, like all good sharks. When Frankie tries to show Lenny how it's done, he has an accident and is killed, apparently by Oscar, who happily takes full credit for being a sharkslayer. It brings him fame and fortune, and the attentions of Lola (Angelina Jolie) but he loses Angie's respect. Oh yeah, it also brings him face to face with Don Lino and his heavies.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's the funkiest 90 minute music gig played to animation, bringing together headline acts ranging from Elvis Presley remixed, to Ziggy Marley (Bob's son), rap star Ludacris, teenage music sensation JoJo, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott, plus the endlessly talented Hans Zimmer. No, there's not an Elton John number within earshot in this underwater urban zone. It's mostly hip hop, R&B, rap and freshly salted pop.
The funk goes on, with Will Smith and Jack Black's voice acting in the lead roles of fast talkin' little fish, Oscar and Lenny, the vegetarian great white shark who is the despair of his dad, Don Lino (Robert De Niro), the godfather of the sharks.
Shark Tale (a kinda Bronx Tale?) takes the mob underwater, into a wonderfully imaginative urban world, where the mob are the sharks, the Whale Wash does what Whale Car Washes do, and where the equivalent of New York's Times Square advertises Coral Cola. The many visual jokes are just the beginning, though, and there is a serious idea behind the story, and one that's not new to Hollywood (or indeed any filmmaker). The moral is: be yourself and treasure what you have, instead of chasing dreams that may come at too high a price - and then turn out disappointing to boot.
But there is a subplot about Lenny the vegetarian shark which carries another message, promoting tolerance. Here is a mainstream animated escapism, subtly engaging with gay issues through the story of a shark who is different enough to not only avoid eating fish ... he dresses as a dolphin! Cross dressing is new to sharks, but not to humans. Draw your own conclusions.
What distinguishes Shark Tale is the combination of all the elements that drive a film to entertainment success: the script is fast, clever, witty and has something to say. The vocal performances are perfectly pitched for dramatic as well as comedic effect, the animation is superb and the music is contemporary, urban and a major contributor to the overall flow.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its dazzling colours, hip characters and irreverent twist on the classic mob genre, Shark Tale is fast, fun and fabulous. From the makers of Shrek comes this delightful tale about a little fish with big dreams and an even bigger mouth. But he is convinced he is a nobody. The essence of the story is to be true to yourself, and even if the sea looks a brighter shade of blue elsewhere, true happiness may in fact be closer than you think.
Breakthrough computer animation results in stunning visuals, with characters and surfaces that are almost jewel-like in their iridescence and contrasts. The light and shade is not restricted to the look of the film, but also in its characters. Music also plays a big role and wait till you see the song and dance routines! There is a sparkling assortment of fish from all schools in this fish-eat-fish world, and a star voice-cast to match. The added bonus is that the animators have captured the looks and mannerisms of each actor: there's no mistaking Will Smith's energetic jive, or Angelina Jolie's pout, and the mobster shark boss even has Robert De Niro's distinctive mole. Brilliant concepts and a witty script entice us into a cosmopolitan underwater-wonderland with skyscrapers, billboards, traffic jams and water police. It's a convincing reality - a compelling blend of Time Square with touches of the Great Barrier Reef and the Caribbean.
Will Smith's Oscar is a funky fish-dude, intent to impress. But while he may dream of fame and fortune in life at the top reef, reality finds him on tongue-cleaning shift at the Whale Wash, where willing turtles offer a wax option. Renee Zellwegger's hot-pink angel-fish, Angie, is all heart, while Angelina Jolie's temptress Lola is a stunner, in a red and white figure-hugging gown, long flowing hair and butterfly fins. A little reminiscent of Roger Rabbit's Jessica... The shark mafia headed by De Niro's Don live in a sunken ocean liner, and Jack Black's vegetarian shark Lenny who cross-dresses as a dophin, is as lovable as a soft toy. There's Martin Scorsese's heavily eye-browed, quick-talking puffer fish, the cool jellyfish duo with tentacle dreadlocks and Australian tv host Tracey Grimshaw voices the Reef's roving reporter anchorfish. All the relationships work - the love triangle, the father/son conflict, and as the strands of the story come to a resolution, we feel our emotions being tugged.
A mix of comedy, romance and action, Shark Tale zips along like a ripper of a current. Guaranteed to entertain every member of the family, whatever the age, this is the kind of film that you want to see again and again, as it draws you in, hook, line and sinker. It's subversive, innovative and very funny. I loved every minute.
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SHARK TALE (G)
VOICES: Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, James Gandolfini, Renee Zellweger, Martin Scorsese and Jack Black
PRODUCER: Bill Damaschke, Janet Healy, Allison Lyon Segan
DIRECTOR: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Rob Letterman
SCRIPT: Rob Letterman, Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Michael J. Wilson
EDITOR: Nick Fletcher, Peter Lonsdale, John Venzon
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan St. Pierre
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 23, 2004
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.