Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Renée Zellweger|
|Director:||Bibo Bergeron, Eric “Bibo” Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Victoria Jenson|
“In fall, a new school will rule.”
Comedy surfaces in many different hues. Each of us has a different concept of humor—of what makes us grin, giggle, or laugh. Humor may also be gauged by the age of the observer. What might be hilarious to a kid could strike an adult with a big “huh? What’s so funny?” I for one love a good gag and a little wink into the camera, making me feel I’m in on the joke, too. It doesn’t matter if the setting is in a balloon circling the globe in 80 days, in a little shack with a tramp eating the soles of his boots, or “under da sea.” Just make me laugh and keep me in on the joke, and I’m happy. Kids on the other hand, are rolling in the isles if someone passes gas. “Shark Tale” straddles the line between both trying to decide if it’s comedy fits the adult or the kid in us.
Street-smart fishy Oscar (the voice of Will Smith with all his Fresh Prince charm and flair) lives in the equivalent of deep ocean New York complete with “shell” phones and “swim—don’t swim” signs. He works a dead end job at the local Whale Wash. The guys taunt him by exclaiming, “You’re so broke your bologna has no first name!”
Oscar dreams big fish dreams of being at the top of the reef where all the ultra cool, rich fish dwell. Oscar is also unaware that the sweet little Whale Wash receptionist Angie (the voice of cuddly cute Renée Zellweger) is in love with him. He thinks they’re just friends and being such close pals, Oscar tells Angie all his visions of getting to the top and finally being a somebody. Angie rightly tells him that “you don’t have to be at the top of the reef to be a somebody.”
Oscar is always trying some hair-brained idea to get rich quick, and Angie is expert at getting him out of one tight spot after another. We soon find out that he is in debt to his boss Sykes (done with style by the voice of Martin Scorsese) for his many failed schemes. Sykes has had the screws tightened on him in turn by the local “loan” shark “Don” Lino (a solid, deep sea Godfather with the voice of Robert De Niro) who runs the rackets and the under world of fishville. Sykes informs Oscar in no uncertain terms that if he doesn’t get the 5 thousand clams he owes into his fin in 24 hours, there will be a nasty accident, and Oscar will go, well, belly up.
With no one else to turn to Oscar tells Angie of his predicament. A sympathetic, not to mention love-struck Angie offers Oscar a valuable Pink Pearl, a precious family heirloom given to her by her grandmother. Oscar accepts this gift and proceeds to the race track to double his money, or clams as it were. As might be expected the “sure thing” seahorse Lucky Day is Oscar’s wager who loses by a sea horse nose to, you guessed it, Sea Biscuit. Enter the bad-girl fish Lola (the voice of delectable Angelina Jolie) whom Oscar is totally taken with—she thinking he’s filthy rich, and he thinking she likes him for himself (both of which are far from reality). When Oscar doesn’t pay up, Sykes sends his jellyfish tough guys Ernie and Bernie to rough Oscar up.
Meanwhile, back at the lair of Don Lino we find the Don instructing his two sons Frankie (the voice of Michael Imperioli) and Lenny (the voice of a kinder, gentler Jack Black) in the fine art of strong arming (or finning, as the case may be). The Don wants to leave the “family” business to his boys and would love to have the more academic Lenny run the show. What the Don doesn’t know is that Lenny is sympathetic to the very fishes he’s suppose to devour. Lenny is, of all things, a vegetarian and spends most of the film releasing his dinners back to the salt water.
While Frankie tries to teach Lenny the techniques of catching his main meal, they come upon Oscar, who has been bound and gagged by those electrifying jellyfish and left to fend for himself. As Lenny is reluctant to attack, Frankie swoops in to demonstrate his technique and is bonked by a falling anchor. There is no doubt Frankie is dead. Lenny can never go home, thinking his father will disown him, and Oscar offers him refuge in an empty warehouse. Word quickly spreads that Oscar is the first and only fish to ever bump off a shark. Even though this is far from the truth, Oscar willingly goes with the flow and immediately becomes the town’s reigning super star.
Lenny and Oscar become friends within this fateful circumstance and concoct a ruse to fool everyone in fish town that Lenny is a deadly predator and Oscar is The Shark Slayer, the hero of every fish’s dreams. Oscar declares that “any shark who tries to mess around in Oscar-town is goin’ down!” As a note: Reporting on all of this is the local anchorwoman, Katie Current, played by Katie Couric.
Oscar believes all his dreams have come true. He has his penthouse on “the reef” along with all the friends he could ever want and has his shot at the beautiful, although superficial, Lola. What he doesn’t realize is that he is losing the best blessings of all and that is the love of an honest “fishy” in Angie and the loss of his legitimate respectability (not to mention using poor Lenny) to further his own selfish ego and desires. Angie reprimands Oscar’s behavior by telling him in no uncertain terms “You’ve lost everything you’ve lied so hard to achieve.” This becomes a resounding wake up call to Oscar.
As fate would have it in the big “fin”-ish, the “real” Oscar is found out by the lone sharks and the grand finale involves Oscar’s confession of deception to all his friends, Lenny mending his relationship with his Father, and Oscar’s realization that Angie is not just his best friend, but his one true love who has always been there for him through thick and thin. Angie affirms that life is a choice you make—you can choose to give or choose to take. Oscar announces to all his younger followers “Don’t make the same mistake I did—I didn’t know what I had until I lost it.”
“Shark Tale” should be evaluated on its own. I don’t feel it fair for this film to be lumped in with all of the other computer animated movies. This is not “Finding Nemo.” All of the major characters are adults with adult problems like debt, romance, and running (or swimming away from) the mob. Little Nemo wanted to escape from the fish tank and return to his father in the ocean. Every kid understands that concept naturally. But how much will they care in “Shark Tale” that Oscar wants to clear his debt with the loan sharks and become rich and famous? Will they follow the romantic struggle involving the Angie and Lola characters?
The story is adult and not as wholesome as “Nemo.” Some scenes are too scary for younger kids, and I heard crying from younger children when Frankie the fish gets killed—also, at times, when the fight action scenes were a little over the top. For the most part the children in the theater laughed, but some of the jokes were more on an adult level, and they didn’t get them. The take offs and major jokes were references to other movies (e.g., “Jaws,” “The Godfather,” outdated music from M.C. Hammer, etc.) that were way beyond the knowledge of the 5 to 12 year old kid crowd. The kids were more impressed with silly characters and as noted above, the passing of gas.
Parents and children should talk about how sometimes shy, unaccepted people like Lenny can have a hard time feeling appreciated and loved for who they are. What can the Lord and reliance on Scripture, friends and family do to support them?
Audiences may interpret some sequences as promoting tolerance of gay lifestyles. Throughout the movie, we are told how the father should accept his “different” shark son Lenny, even though he embarrasses the family. The film goes to great lengths to say that the father should not be concerned about his son no matter how he “dresses,” how he acts, or what his mannerisms are (which are almost identical to those of the characters on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”). This appears to be an attempt to affect childrens’ views of how to react to homosexual lifestyles. Parents should be aware of this gesture and lovingly explain God’s view and how we must all love the person, but help and pray for them to know God’s truth and will in their lives.
There is no profanity, drinking or drugs, but I would caution parents about letting children under the age of 8 view this movie because of the stark depiction of death and some scary instances of fish (people) in peril that younger kids may not understand are not real. There are two references to butts, lying by the main character and one utterance of “God forbid!”
“Shark Tale” is a story with a message about honesty and the value of honesty, dedication to friends and family, and the real strength of the person who admits when he’s wrong. It would be good to point out that being at the “top” or having money does not equate into happiness. The main character grows in honesty and wisdom, and such growth can help you highlight such values to your kids.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None