Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Shark Tale

MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language and crude humor

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids, Families
Action Adventure, Comedy, CGI Animation, Crime, Kids
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Featuring: Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Renée Zellweger
Director: Bibo Bergeron, Eric “Bibo” Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Victoria Jenson
Distributor: DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG

“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.

Copyright, DreamWorks SKG

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

Viewer Comments
Positive—I am a homeschool mother with 5 children. They range in age from 13 to 4 and I took them all to see this movie. We all loved it. There was very little in the movie that was offensive. The character of Lola was the only thing the movie could have done without. Although she was a seductive fish, most of that went over the kids heads. The message was that of friendship, helping others, and being content with what you have because the “grass isn’t always greener on the other side” There was a part in the end where the father shark decides that he will love his son no matter what he eats, or wares. It may have been implying a homosexual issue, but was done in a way that could have been used for parents and teenagers that are expressing who they are through their clothes, makeup or jewelry. All in all, the movie made me laugh, the kids laugh, and it opened up discussions about always wanting something besides sll the Lord has already given you. I give it 2 thumbs up!!
My Ratings: [Excellent!/4]
—Jane, age 42
Negative—I’m sorry, but if you think Lenny the shark is just “different” I would say “buyer beware.” Why do I say this? Well, I am no expert on things homosexual, but my brother is gay. (By the way—We do get along very well, i.e. love the sinner not the sin.). Since my brother came out years ago, it has been a real eye opener into the “same sex” lifestyle, etc. Please do not be naive—Lenny is not just “implied” as homosexual—the message “screams from the screen.” Sure, it is an issue today, but it is really objectionable to make a children’s movie with this sub plot being pushed to the limits. Such themes should be discussed in movies for adults. Don’t be naive—give it a miss as a kids movie and vote with your movie bucks to say “No” to opening up kids movies to homosexual issues. Very “Hollywood,” very inappropriate. Looking for a platform in all the wrong places. Some good animations etc, but just best not to take the kids.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2½]
—Rachelle, age 30s
Negative—Warning!! Be aware is what I would say to parents taking children to this movie. While it teaches some good concepts to hook the audience into thinking it’s A-okay,the bottom line is that the homosexual movement got more than their share of the clams in this film. Lenny is more than just a vegetarian who dresses different. The shove towards acceptance of homosexual lifestyles is subtle and one most kids may not pick up on, but the seeds will be planted in their innocent minds. And Lola is just another spin on sex that is not the way God intended. This is in no way a 3-star movie. I give it a 1½ at the most. And I won’t be taking my grandchildren to see it.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive]
—Carole, age 52
Positive—To watch this movie and take the low road in assuming Hollywood is trying to make an impression on our children about homosexuality is absurd. You must consider these 2 things: The place movies come from is called Hollywood, not Holy-wood. Do not expect to shelter your children if you are going to see something put out by the mainstream, and do not expect them to teach what you should be teaching. It is your responsibility as a parent to raise your children in the way they should go so they will not depart from the way. Secondly, if you are only looking for the evil that men do, you will find a demon behind every tree! Relax and enjoy yourself sometimes, don’t be so negative. God created the world for us to enjoy! Just because there is corruption does not mean have to partake in it or are partakers.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Brad, age 40
Negative—I don’t know if anyone has seen the new “Finding Nemo” imitation called “Shark Tale,” but I was shocked and appalled when I saw it with my six year-old this weekend… it portrays acts that are violent and inappropriate for children. I also find very disturbing the stealth promotion of the agendas that put in peril the bedrock foundation of the family through characters such as Lenny. In an era where family values are under siege from the relentless attacks of the forces of moral and social disintegration with their so-called progressive agenda and their activist allies in judiciaries such as Massachusetts’, Hollywood continues, its efforts to ram down America’s throats concepts a majority stll oppose as immoral. I understand that homosexuality, unfortunately, has hit the mainstream, but I would like to think there are still some things I can do with my son that are devoid of anti-family undertones and unnecessary stereotypes. I guess I can scratch Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks off the family-friendly list.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—AJ Brown, age 35
Positive—I saw this movie …with my husband and girls ages 7½ and 4. My 4 year old didn’t last until the end (she usually doesn’t), but my 7½ year old liked it. My husband and I also enjoyed it. As always, I read the reviews here before I went. The thing I want to address is the implication of homosexuality in the movie. I saw NONE. The only reason I even thought of it was because I had read it here. The way the movie portrays Lenny the shark in no way made me think a homosexual agenda was there. Yes, he was portrayed as “different” but it was more of a personality difference than anything. It also made mention that he was vegetarian (not normal for sharks in general), but even still I saw no connection between this and homosexuality. I thought it was a delightful film.
My Ratings: [Good/3]
—Lee, age 34
Neutral—Took my two children (ages 4 and 6) to watch Shark Tale this weekend with some hesitation, instead of spending the afternoon reading, but we don’t watch movies much so I thought we would make an exception. I was wrong, we should’ve stayed home. Overall, the movie was (as usual) a disappointment. Don’t be fooled by the colorful animation and cute characters this movie is not intended for little children. To name a few of the negative themes that run in the movie: deception, pride, seduction, greed, coveting, and idolatry. Overall, the movie ends with a positive twist and everyone has found happiness. The sad reality is that without Christ there is no happiness, only temporary pleasures and distractions. We spend our entire lives searching for what satisfies when only Christ can truly satisfy. We develop lists of do’s and don’ts when we ought to be developing techniques on treasuring Christ more. This movie did not make me or my children treasure Christ more, it was only a distraction.
My Ratings: [Average/1½]
—Nathan, age 27
Negative—If you are truly seeking after God’s truths, you WON’T want to take you children to this movie. I regret having gone to the movie both because of the style of music (I’ve never gotten on board with the whole rap scene), and with the offensive portrayal of Lenny as a “vegetarian” shark (secret word for “homosexual” shark). The movie even has a “vegetarian” coming out scene. I was nonetheless excited about the story being wrapped around the mafia or the introduction of gambling.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2½]
—Laura in Kansas City, age 36
Neutral—Well, I was fairly disappointed with “Shark Tale.” I took my 5 yr. old daughter and 4 year old niece. They both fell asleep, which is unlike them. It certainly had its comical moments, but for the most part I felt like it was filled with “Godfather” style dialog swimming in a ton of pop culture parodies. Sometimes its funny to see the “inside jokes” of pop culture imitated (i.e. Ella Enchanted) but after the first few dozen in “Shark Tale,” it grew tiresome. It reminded me of one large animated infommercial. Concerning the homosexual agenda: I can see what people are referring too, however I think it is simply referring to different and I think that as Christians we are just overly sensitive right now with the homosexual agenda. Over the decades there have been many movies similar to that (about differences, etc…) and I think its a healthy plot for children to see. MUCH better then a plot encouraging them to follow a trend.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—M. Wagner, age 28
Negative—Yep, I see this film as extremely well done, and yet I rate it extremely offensive. This is not a film for Christian families, period! Christians are being duped by the daily thought process of the world today…”it’s not hurting anybody so it’s okay”! Oh help us Lord Jesus to consider our instructions from the manual that YOU have provided on life…”be holy, set apart for His good works.” No sir, we want to be entertained regardless of the subtleties involved for after all, “that is not how I am living, and I would not condone the lifestyle of a homosexual.” Do not kid yourself, the planted seeds of “accept them for what they are” will be hard for your children to reject and frankly they won’t even know why except that we have allowed them to swallow junk like this film… hook, line and sinker. And the sinking is what will take this nation of ours down, right along with this generation! Sheeple! Wake up and take a stand for what is right! He said it, He mean’t it and there will be a price to pay for our foolishness! No wonder the phrase still fits today…”the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” We are too busy entertaining ourselves with whatever comes down the pike rather than to get out and get in the trenches and do the Lord’s work. Lord help us; give us wisdom and discernment. He said He would if we would just ask! After all, He gave us His life, we owe Him ours!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/5]
—Linda Owensby, age 45
Positive—…I liked the movie because the overall meaning …was that you should not be ashamed of who you are, and you shoulder never change for others. Prime example was with the father of the Lanny, even thought he was different he still loved him for who he was. To me that was the most important part. Yes, their were some things in the movie that I thought were for an older audience of children, but overall okay. Now, my problem is not with movie but with the people relating homosexuality with the movie so strongly, yes I can see were others are coming from but to directly relate the two is absolutely stupid. Because most of these aspects of the movie are not noticed by the children, so stop the excessive worrying, but if by chance if a child should ask about something, then tell them the truth with Christ like answer but without being biased. Yes, I am over-all against that type of life style but with the anger you show towards the movie gives the children that they should hate these type of people. You are just as wrong because you are judging them and that itself is a sin. We need to over-all dislike the life style that is not Godly but love and show respect towards those. So, for those who have a problem with homosexuals calling themselves gay and judging them, I have a problem with Christians that judge so harshly.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Tai, age 22
Positive—From what I saw of Shark Tale in the previews, I thought “Oh, no, another Pixar clone (think Small Soldiers and Antz)… this can’t be any good.” I would’ve waited until it came out on video, but someone offered to pay my way in to the theater. That said (my expectations were minimal), it wasn’t NEAR as bad as I thought—it was very entertaining! The undersea city which is the setting is very similar in style to “The City” on A Bug’s Life (perhaps on purpose, perhaps not), and the animation was reasonably good. The best part, imo, was that there was NO PROFANITY AT ALL. I didn’t think that was possible anymore, and there was very, very little crude humor (which I was also expecting from the makers of Shrek). No sex/nudity, unless you count a sultry fish with what might be a low-cut dress, if you use your imagination. As for the ever-so-subtle social brainwashing (of which I am accustomed to picking out), I really don’t think the character Lenny was supposed to be gay/homo. I had heard he was, so I was watching for it, and I didn’t see it. His situation, to me, was more akin to a pacifist in a long-standing military family. One final note—the urban, hip-hop influence was pretty heavy (Will Smith DID do a main character), so if you really CANNOT stand that type of music, stay away. You won’t enjoy this movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—RJ, age 18
Negative—I took my 9-year-old and regretted it. In a very subtle fashion the movie promotes a homosexual agenda, gambling, worldly sex and relationships, lying, violence, and minor crimes such as graffiti and absenteeism. It surprised me that it was not PG-13. Besides all this, it simply isn’t a very entertaining movie.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Tim, age 33
Negative—I have to admit after finding out that this movie was made by the makers of “Finding Nemo,” I had higher hopes that were never reached for it. The movie itself was not poorly done as far as color and quality, but the script itself was shady in areas. We as a family like to give support to good movies, and encourage others to do the same in hopes that Hollywood will get the hint and realize that they can make money if they make movies that a family can bring all of their family to. This movie itself bugged me as far as the whole “let’s accept him just because he’s different,” not different as in he may have a handicap that most don’t, but different in his preference of what the MAJORITY of their kind do. Sure… they didn’t actually say he was a gay fish, of course not, its much more subtle, just introducing “different preferences” to our younger viewers. The parts that refer to gambling at least show in the end that most don’t win, and the lying catches up with him as well, at least those values are reinforced with what would likely happen. I found it ridiculous that we had to view yet another seductive part in a movie, is that an everyday occurance like most movies seem to portray? I will not buy this movie to add to my collection, the TV Guardian we own cannot help it.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Jennifer Crawford, age 32
Negative—This movie is too much like the theater’s popcorn-empty and stale without anything to remember. I didn’t find anything really offensive, but then again, I didn’t find anything positive at all. “Finding Nemo” is SO much better. This is just fluff with little substance and even less humor.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Dana, age 19

Comments from young people
Neutral—This movie was very funny. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children, though, due to some things that they wouldn’t understand. The only thing I would consider is that the movie had some things that were wrong and against what the Bible says.
My Ratings: [ Better than Average/4½]
—Kailey, age 11
Neutral—It was an O.K movie, I saw this with my friend and I laughed most of the time but I also found it Corny. I have limited money, since I have no job, so I’m sorry I wasted my money on this because I would have rather seen a better movie. But it was an o.k. movie; its neither good nor bad.
My Ratings: [Good/3½]
—Mia, age 13
Positive—I think this movie was awesome. Nothing offensive. There’s nothing wrong about it where you shouldn’t bring your kids, because they would love it because today my parents took me to see that movie. We all thought it was so great, especially my dad. It was also very funny. You should really go see it if you haven’t already!!
My Ratings: [Excellent/4]
—Tessa, age 10
Positive—I would recommend this movie to anyone. Very funny nothing offensive.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Addy, age 13
Positive—I went to see this movie with my little sisters and little brother. (all around 10 years) and we all loved it! Will Smith is really funny. I did notice that at the end Lenny gets dressed up as a dolphin and his father acts like a real father would if he found out his son as gay. in the end though he learns to accept him. I thought this showed how people are willing to accept homosexuality even though as Christians we know this is not right. you could say that they were being respectful of it which we should do if we ever want them to turn towards Jesus. But it IS just a shark! All in all it was a great family movie with enough stuff to keep kids and adults entertained!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Caleb, age 14
Positive—I saw this movie along with my ten year old brother and both of us enjoyed it. One part I think was shown particularly well was how Angie truly loved and cared for Oscar whereas Lola only liked him for money and fame. When Oscar didn’t have much, Angie really loved Oscar and didn’t care about what he didn’t have, whereas Lola thought that he was a nobody. Then when Oscar got famous, the opposite occurred. Oscar realized that he couldn’t be happy with Lola and that she didn’t really love him and only cared about his fame and wealth. At the end, Angie was willing to forgive Oscar and accept him, even without all his fame and wealth.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Will Herrmann, age 14
Positive—I thought that this was a very funny movie, if you knew what movies they were referring back too. Mainly it was referring back to the Godfather gang things but there was nothing bad in the allusion. There was only one questionable part with Lola, but nothing explicit happened at all (not much of a big deal because you realize she is a “bad woman” whose morals you should not follow). Overall, this was a great movie with two thumbs way up.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Geoff Miller, age 13
Positive—A beautiful movie that looked stunningly hilarious from the previews, and it was rather funny. Unfortunately, viewers have come to expect something more from computer animated movies, and “Shark Tale” fails to deliver. Much like “Ice Age,” there wasn’t much of a plot. Unlike “Ice Age,” there weren’t as many funny jokes. Granted, there were some jokes that made you bust out, but not near as often as others.

The only thing possibly worth a un-Christian mention would be some kissing between fish, and a rather slutty fish named Lola. Realize though that the animation is simply suggestive, not crude. In the end, this is a good film for children to see, but don’t expect Nemo or Shrek.
My Ratings: [Good/3½]
—Chris, age 15
Positive—This movie was great I would recommend it to anyone.
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Mitchell F., age 13
Positive—I went to see this movie with my youth group friends after going to a Dead to Self concert in the mall. I did not see ANYTHING offensive about this movie. As for the homosexuality, I don’t understand how anyone would get that that shark is gay; he is just set apart from the rest because he is a vegetarian. In no place in the movie did it imply that he was attracted to another boy fish or shark. I am disappointed that someone would get that out of a clean cartoon. As for Lola being a seductive fish—I don’t see any harm in displaying that to the kids. In cartoons, it is just temptation, and he overcomes it. We wouldn’t be able to present many of the stories of the bible if seduction was bad to be displayed. I mean COME ON—the fish in NO time of the movie had sex—let alone were there implications of the fish having sex.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Aman da, age 15
Movie Critics
…lacks a port of entry for young viewers—a character they can identify with…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…not at “Nemo” level… story is fundamentally misconceived…
—Bob Strauss, L.A. Daily News
…a pun-laden parable about being who you are…
—John Anderson, Newsday
…a lively, colorful look and a talented, star-laden voice cast. But it lacks… a heart.
—Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
…reasonably funny jokes…
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
…An amusing cartoon that lacks real satirical bite…
—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter