DreamWorks’ “Shark Tale” is no “Finding Nemo.” The two will surely draw comparison, just as “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life” did upon their separate releases in 1998.
But to compare the fishy films would be like comparing two films about humans.
Oscar (Will Smith) is an average yellow-and-blue fish, with “Big Willie Style” ears, who is tired of being a nobody. Quick to take advantage of a get-rich-quick scheme, Oscar finds himself in debt to his boss and in trouble with a mob Godfather, a shark voiced by, you guessed it, Robert De Niro. With the help of his best friend, Angie (Renee Zellweger), a pink fish with a knack for saving Oscar’s neck, and a vegetarian shark (Jack Black), Oscar gets himself out of debt and into the spotlight by impersonating a shark slayer.
The miniature hero, however, finds himself having to decide between a life of luxury and a life with those he loves. From a fishy temptress played by Angelina Jolie to Rasta jelly fish played by Mos Def and Ziggy Marley, the movie’s cast is stacked. Each character amusingly embodies his or her Hollywood image, with the exception of Jack Black’s character, a self-conscious, soft-spoken great white. The film even turns a reef in the middle of the ocean into a cityscape, complete with fish taxis and a Times Square.
But “Shark Tale” isn’t all nudge-nudge, wink-wink comedy. Unlike a similar flounder flick, this film flirts with social commentary. Urban caricatures, including a schizophrenic, dumpster-diving hermit crab and vandalizing guppies, make up the shark-fearing community that thrives on
hype and struggles with a class hierarchy. The movie also pokes at commercialism, much like the recently released “Shrek 2” with parallels to Gap (Gup) and Old Navy (Old Wavy).
There are plenty of fish in this sea, and the animation in “Shark Tale” delights in their diversity.