You know how movies always come in pairs? White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen: same basic film. Dante’s Peak and Volcano: twins! Armaggeddon and Deep Impact: same damn thing. Antz and A Bug’s Life: why the hell not. Infamous and Capote: nominally two different films. Turner & Hooch\K-9. Platoon\Full Metal Jacket. The Truman Show\Ed TV. The Prestige\The Illusionist. No Strings Attached\Friends With Benefits. I could go on and likely so could you. Are the movie studios hoping you’ll see one instead of the other, or are they banking that if you liked one, you’ll like the other?
Or did Jeffrey Katzenberg steal an idea and take it with him when he left Disney? He’s been accused of that more than once, and that’s the theory behind Shark Tale conveniently riding on Finding Nemo’s coat tails. Both are animated movies dealing with outcast sharks befriending fish. Doesn’t that seem like quite the coincidence?
DreamWorks Animation has often been a step behind animation powerhouse Pixar, and in this case, Shark Tale isn’t exactly a bad movie, but it is the inferior one.
Oscar (voiced by Will Smith) is a small fish who dreams big. When a shark turns up dead at his feet (fin?) of course he takes the credit, and then the money and the fame that come along with being The Sharkslayer – everything he’s always wanted. Until some real sharks start threatening his reef and he’s the one that’s supposed to stop them.
There’s a tonne of voice talent on hand: Renee Zellwegger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black – but my favourites were Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who recorded their lines together, and if you look carefully at their characters, you’ll see some tell-tale eyebrows and a distinguishing mole.
So why is it that this movie fails? Story, mostly. Pixar has this magical formula for making a children’s movie that still appeals to adults, and I think in striving for it, Dreamworks failed to hit either target. It’s fast and it’s colourful but it doesn’t seem to captivate kids the way that Finding Nemo did. And there’s no underlying truth and sweetness, so no reason for adults to really watch, except for the sharks-as-mafia bit that’s kind of a tired joke, and got the Italic Institute of America all riled up. But that’s not the only organization they pissed off: the Christian wackos over at the American Family Association (a nice euphemism for spouting pure hatred) decided that Lenny the Shark was a bad example to kids because his VEGETARIANISM was an allegory for HOMOSEXUALITY. Um, no comment.
The one thing this movie does get right is its soundtrack. But everything in between is forgettable and derivative. Even the animation doesn’t live up to the standard they set with Shrek. There’s no charm, and no whimsy. Would this movie be as ugly if it wasn’t always being compared to the pretty twin, Finding Nemo? Who knows. But it’s just not interesting enough for me to care.