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DreamWorks presents
Shark Tale (2004)

"He tripped underwater. Now, who trips underwater? Oh! And by the way, on what?"
- Oscar (Will Smith)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: February 16, 2005

Stars: Will Smith, Jack Black, Robert DeNiro, Angelina Jolie, Renee Zellweger, Martin Scorsese
Other Stars: Michael Imperioli, Doug E. Doug, Ziggy Marley, Vincent Pastore, Katie Couric, Peter Falk
Director: Vicky Jensen, Bibo Bergeron, Rob Letteman

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language and crude humor
Run Time: 01h:29m:59s
Release Date: February 08, 2005
UPC: 678149195521
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Deep in the ocean, past all of those lovable characters from Finding Nemo, swim the sealife that inhabit Shark Tale. Though the two films each feature fish that speak and are rich in personalities, they really couldn't be more different:Nemo is a sure-to-be classic that will thrill audiences for years to come; Shark Tale can't even muster up a thrill in its hour and a half length.

With a cast that includes Will Smith, Jack Black, Robert DeNiro, Angelina Jolie, Renee Zellweger, and even Martin Scorsese, one would imagine that Shark Tale would be a colossal slam dunk. Instead, the film, which is a rough parody of The Godfather and other mob films, relies heavily on pop culture references that are funny but unnecessary.

As Shark Tale begins, we are introduced to life in the ocean by Katie Current (Couric) and we soon learn that all of the fish that swim in the sea fear the sharks, most notably Don Lino (DeNiro), who is, to no surprise, an underwater mob boss. His sons Frankie (Imperioli) and Lenny (Black) are poised to take over the family business. Frankie is the perfect son of a mobster with a killer instinct while Lenny is cute, cuddly, and a general outcast, given his vegetarian views.

This matters because the sharks are acquainted with Sykes (Scorsese), who is trying to collect a debt from Oscar (Smith), a tongue scrubber at a whale wash who is always looking for his next get-rich quick scheme. Sykes orders his enforcers to dispose of Oscar, but when they venture into shark territory Frankie is accidentally killed, and everyone believes Oscar slayed the shark. Riding a wave of popularity thanks to his sudden success, Oscar is on top of the world (er, ocean) and has to choose between Angie (Zellweger), the fish who has been his best friend for years, or the gold-digging Lola (Jolie) who simply wants Oscar for his fame.

The biggest problem with Shark Tale is its story. For a film of which children will be the target audience, it seems too focused on telling its tale. The love triangle, Oscar's quest for fame, and the mob dynamic are done well, but after a period of time I lost interest, and I would assume that children will sooner than I did. The best animated films balance the right combination of material for adults and children, but Shark Tale creates a story about fish with adult problems rather than just enjoying the vast opportunities that the setting and the cast have presented them.

The animation is wonderfully done, and the animators have done a great job of giving the characters a sly resemblance to the star that portrays them. The laughs found in the similarities may be small but they have heart, and the joy of watching the animated expressions of Don Lino and how they really do resemble DeNiro represents some of the best moments in the entire film.

The strength here lies in its voice talent, and while Smith headlines the film, his energy grows quickly tiresome. The best dynamic comes from Scorsese and DeNiro; they have a playful interaction that brings genuine delight (I kept wanting to fast forward past all of the Oscar stuff and search for scenes involving the two legends). Black, whose manic persona has worked well in so many projects, tones down here for Lenny and his endearing qualities and genuine neurosis prove that Black is a true talent. In the end, I appreciated Shark Tale for what it is, but I consistently found myself wanting more. The animation is excellent and the voice talent does terrific work, but there is just something lacking.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, the anmation looks absolutely stunning. The colors present in this DVD are bold and vibrant with great detail. The transfer looks to have been taken direct from the digital source and the results are great. There is an issue with softness on occasion but this is an absolutely stunning transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: One might expect that the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix would be a kinetic track, but the results are less than impressive. However, the center channel does well with dialogue and other effects. The surround tracks get some use with ambient sounds and some well designed surround effects. The .1 LFE track packs some punch, especially in the scenes involving the largely hip hop soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
5 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by directors Vicky Jensen, Bibo Bergeron, Rob Letterman
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Concept Art
  2. Soundtrack Spot
  3. interactive games
  4. Dance Lesson
Extras Review: Shark Tale will be a fun experience for kids and adults alike, as the amount of actually informative and substantial material is surprising given that the disc also boasts interactive games and even a dance lesson for kids. A commentary by the three directors of the film—Rob Letterman, Bibo Bergeron, and Vicky Jensen—is a fascinating listen, as we learn about the casting choices, character design, and the evolution of the project.

Rough Waters showcases technical goofs that are funny for awhile but grow tiresome. A Fishified World is an interesting look at the creation of the world that we see the characters inhabit in the film. Using New York as a basis, the animators talk about adding small details that would otherwise go unnoticed, as well as the inspiration for certain sets. Star Fish offers interviews with the cast and crew including Scorsese and Deniro as they promote the film.

Finally we have concept art, and a brief look at the soundtrack.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

I would recommend the film based on technical qualities and some great voice work, but neither can overcome the general lack of a decent script.


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