Shark Tale


Directed by: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Rob Letterman
Written by:Rob Letterman, Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Michael Wilson
Starring: Will Smith, Renee Zellweger, Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese
Released: September 20, 2004
Grade: B

Out this week are a multitude of children’s flicks looking to satisfy their short attention spans.  It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the school holidays are once again upon us.  Leading the marketing campaigns this September is Shark Tale and we here in Australia are the first to catch its bite since it will not be released in the United States for another two weeks.

Put simply, Oscar (Smith) is a small fish who wants to be a big fish.  Up until now he has followed in his father’s footsteps and worked at the local whale wash.  His best friend is Angie (Zellweger) and the two often talk of adventure and Oscar shares his dreams of being rich and owning the highest penthouse in the reef.

Fate falls Oscar’s way when he is attacked by a killer shark only to evade his capture by a moment of freak chance.  When two jellyfish catch glimpse of the dead beast, they believe Oscar to be the man responsible and he becomes the town’s new hero.  Dubbed the “shark slayer”, he’s got now got wealth, celebrity status and even his own manager (Scorsese).  Unfortunately for Oscar, the shark killed just happened to be the son of Don Lino (De Niro), the most fearsome shark in the ocean, and Don Lino is looking for revenge…

Shark Tale wasn’t a film I found particularly appetising.  With so many more animated films being produced, I think there’s a laziness developing on the part of the scriptwriters.  I know they’re an easy target but I stand by my opinion.  Looking back at the history of computer animation, Toy Story and Toy Story 2 set a benchmark which has not yet been surpassed.  These two films had great characters, many enjoyable jokes and most importantly, a sweet, emotional sentimentality that leaves an impact.  They are films you buy to watch over and over again.

Whilst I chuckled a few times during Shark Tale, it’s not of Toy Story calibre and one you’re unlikely to want to see more than once.  I can’t also ignore the fact the setting is eerily similar to last year’s box-office smash Finding Nemo.  Is there not more diversity we can offer our audience?  This couldn’t be an attempt to cash in again, would it?

It seems to be someone in Hollywood, you have to have done an animated film.  Robert DeNiro, Jack Black, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie and Will Smith can now notch that credit on their resumes.  The most surprising member of the cast would be director Martin Scorsese who has found time between Gangs Of New York and The Aviator to provide his services.  I didn’t find the leading characters particularly interesting but my favourites would have to be the aforementioned jellyfish and a hilarious green octopus.

One strange point I wish to make a final reference to.  Channel 9 newsreader Tracey Grimshaw plays a journalist fish covering news stories.  In every other version of the film screened across the world, this character is voiced by Katie Couric, from the Today Show in America.  The character herself is named Katie Current, in honour of Couric.  Why then was Grimshaw dubbed in for the Australian version?  I see it as a very lame attempt to generate more publicity for the film in this country.  Proof again that a film’s success is not about quality but rather how you market it.