ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  b. bergeron, v. jenson

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  animated

LENGTH  -  90 minutes

RELEASED  -  1 october 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  dreamworks pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  shark tale

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $70,000,000
shark tale - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from shark tale at

buy the dvd from shark tale at

the sea underworld is shaken up when the son of the shark mob boss is found dead and a young fish named oscar is found at the scene.

select scenes of this movie were be screened at the tribeca film festival in new york city.


picture from shark tale

picture from shark tale

picture from shark tale

picture from shark tale


two out of four possible stars

Despite the beautiful and richly textured animation in Shark Tale, this movie is completely devoid of a beating heart and despite some small, hilarious supporting performances by ancillary characters, the story is very poorly done. It's difficult to criticize such eye-popping animation, but without a group of characters that gives your heart a bit of pull, all the technical prowess in the world can't make a bad script good. The dialogue in this film is really quite horrid, to put it bluntly.

There's no reason the writers of this film couldn't have put a little heart into their story. The story of this film is, very basically, a simple lesson on the theme of "material possessions aren't anything if you don't have friends." It's a good idea and one that's been covered successfully by any number of films aimed at young audiences. But in Shark Tale, the style of the production comes into play much more importantly than the characters and their troubles.

The basic reality of this film is that the main characters are unable to hold any real, emotional sway with the audience. Despite Oscar's smooth moves (the "shark slaying" fish is voiced by Will Smith) and Lenny's ambrosial voice (the vegetarian shark is played by Jack Black), these two characters are often flat regarding comedy and each character comes to the story with very little surprise regarding dialogue or plot. Because this is very definitely a comedy (or it's supposed to be, anyway), the plot could have taken a back-seat to the funnies...if the funnies had been in any way hilarious in and of themselves.

But neither the main characters' jokes nor their dialogue and actions resemble anything more interesting than an episode of some nameless Saturday morning cartoon that's been rerun into the dust a million times. And not only is the dialogue as far from pithy as is aquatically possible, the jokes really do fall flat. Nobody's really going to care whether Oscar the shark slayer is going to make it through alive. You won't care whether he gets the girl. Err, fish. And despite his affability, Lenny the shark won't have that much pull on your heart either.

What viewers will have to pay attention to in this film is the supporting performances and small set-pieces that fill the bland story's usually lifeless heartbeat. Coming in first place is the duo of Doug E. Doug and Ziggy Marley, who play a team of Rastafarian jelly-fish assigned to make life difficult for Oscar. As "Bernie" and "Ernie," (a subtle reference to Bert and Ernie of "Sesame Street" fame?) Doug and Marley are the actors who will give the audience the most laughs. Much of the film is spent as a waiting game for their reappearance on screen.

In other successful supporting roles, Peter Falk makes a good impression as "Don Brizzi," an ancient mob boss shark and also making humorous appearances are a bevy of famous Italian American actors in various under-boss shark roles including Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore. The interactions between Robert DeNiro (playing mob boss shark, "Don Lino") and Martin Scorsese (playing blowfish and whale-wash owner, "Sykes") are enthusiastically performed and funny as well. But supporting performances cannot fill a void that the lead stars are unable to fill.

In the lead role, Will Smith plays his fish personality with zeal, but owing to a script filled with pedantic and on-the-nose dialogue concerning important "life lessons," he is unable to reach beyond the very infantile approach to storytelling. When the writers want you to know that Will Smith's character is having difficulty adjusting to his new life as a rich and famous fish, they have the character say that very thing. The writers don't allow the characters to show what they're feeling; they just insert some bland dialogue to patch up the dead spots between the action scenes and tell you, "Oscar is having trouble now." Well, duh.

As two female fish vying for Smith's attention, Renée Zellweger and Angelina Jolie, despite previous Oscar winning performances, cannot make the dialogue any more interesting than can any of the other actors unfortunate enough to have to say the flat words. It's rather disappointing that the script fails so heavily regarding dialogue, because given the beautiful visuals in this film, the characters could have been given a lot less to say and the end product might have been more affecting.

In addition to some of the entertaining supporting performances, the aspect of this film that might keep viewers in their seats is the computer animation. Going far beyond the static hued visuals of their first films, the DreamWorks animation department has come to the table with some incredible visuals and textures for their characters that really bring the animation to life. It's a disappointment that the script and dialogue couldn't follow the animation department's lead. How can two inseparable pieces of a film be so uneven in their skill?

Since the audio track of character voices on an animated film is usually created before the animators begin the meat of their work, it's possible that the animators simply formed the best visuals they were able to create, given the flat nature of the dialogue and characterizations. Like many DreamWorks productions, Shark Tale seems to be a piece of flashy animation that refuses to buy into the sappy splendor of rival animation giant, Disney. But what the people behind the story of this film fail to realize, is that the Disney angle of inserting some honest-to-goodness heart into a story (whether animated or live action), makes for an incredible film.

In so many DreamWorks animated features, it seems like the creators consistently try to make a product as fundamentally different from a Disney feature as is humanly possible. And that's why so many of their films fail to really grab audience's hearts. One of the only exceptions to this practice seems to have been the "Shrek" series, in which a small, vital heart actually exists. The DreamWorks folks need to put passion and life into their characters to really give Disney (and the increasingly adroit Blue Sky animators) a run for their market share. Shark Tale is a beautiful film. But it's told without heart and honesty, and that is its greatest and most damaging failing.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

(this film would usually be a one-star film, but the animators really
deserve more than that, so hence, this film gets two stars)

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