197 – Shark Tale

Oscar (Will Smith) is a young bottom-feeding fish who wants to make it to the top – the top of the reef, that is – but is stuck with his dead-end job on the assembly line at a whale wash. His best friend is Angie (Rene Zellweger), an angel fish with the typical heart o’ gold. Angie loves Oscar to death, but he’s too dopey and blind to figure that out.

But Oscar’s the fishie on the spot when he’s witness to a descending anchor that kills a shark that was chasing him. Aha, problem solved! You bet it is, especially when Oscar sort of takes credit for the death, proclaiming himself “Sharkslayer.” Top of the world, ma!

Will Oscar finally realize that Angie is his One True Love, or will he fall to the considerable and formidable charms of the lovely and mysterious Lola (Angelina Jolie)? And will he figure out his romance situation before he’s iced by the local Mob boss Don Lino (Robert DeNiro), who happens to be the father of the shark who was killed by the anchor, the shark everyone thinks Oscar killed?

Charming, whimsical, and fulla heart and moxie, Shark Tale tries – and succeeds – to do for fishfolk what Antz did for insectfolk. Both, incidentally, were Dreamworks creations, and it’s somewhat assuring to see a company other than Disney consistently turn out fun, high-quality animation.

For once, Smith is perfectly cast. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked quite a few Will Smith films, but most of the time he’s an entertainer and showman, not an actor. There’s plenty of showmanship in his performance here, but for some reason the animation comes across as completely sincere. So it’s the Will Smith show again, but against the animated backdrop of the briny deep, it somehow works wonderfully.

Bearing in mind that during the making of animated films, the actors providing the voices often do not work simultaneously (although they did do so a few times for Shark Tale), I thought the vocal chemistry between De Niro and Smith was excellent. Strong performances abounded, from a fairly disparate selection of actors: De Niro, Smith, Zellweger, Jolie, Peter Falk, Jack Black, Ziggy Marley, and Doug E. Doug.

So all in all, a whole lotta fun. You might say the movie has teeth, but you’d be wrong – it’s an innocuous PG-rated movie, so rated merely for its mild cartoon violence. Your kidlets will probably love it – or at least they will if there’s a Happy Meal involved, which I’m sure there was.

Shark Tale: ***

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