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Will Smith
Robert De Niro
Renee Zellweger
Angelina Jolie
Jack Black
Martin Scorsese
Peter Falk.
Eric Bergeron
Vicky Jenson.
Michael J Wilson.
Running Time
90 minutes

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Shark Tale

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Oscar (Smith), an ambitious, fast-talking fish, wants to be more than just a whale-washer. Lenny (Black), a sensitive, vegetarian shark, doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of his Mafioso dad (De Niro). The two are brought together by a fatal accident and a tall tale, but come to learn the importance of honesty.

Once upon a time, DreamWorks and Pixar went feeler-to-feeler with two movies about insects, Antz and A Bug’s Life respectively, released just a month apart. Pixar won in the end, both with critics and at the box office, by dint of better character design, smarter storytelling and prettier pastel colours.

After making well over a billion dollars on the Shrek franchise in the last few years, you’d think DreamWorks wouldn’t have to prove anything by now. But, despite waiting a year or so, it almost seems like it’s going in for a rematch by making Shark Tale — Katzenberg and co.’s own water-wonderland story featuring a piscine hero — that’ll invite inevitable comparisons with Pixar’s 2003 megahit Finding Nemo.

Unfortunately, although it has moments with real comic bite, the rather less engaging Shark Tale probably won’t sink its teeth into viewers’ hearts and wallets the same way the little clown fish and his aquatic chums did.

That’s not to say it’s a complete floater. As with the Shrek films, the better jokes are aimed at grown-ups more than at kids, particularly the tongue-firmly-in-cheek, quasi-gay references at the end. You’ll most likely get off on spotting all the movie allusions, covering everything from the obvious Jaws and The Godfather references, to the likes of Gladiator, Jerry Maguire and Titanic.

Also, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had from witnessing what may go down as one of Robert De Niro’s better performances of the new millennium (although that’s not really saying much), while Martin Scorsese is hilarious as the bushy-eyebrowed blowfish Sykes.

Standout sequences include the whale wash’s introduction (set to Rose Royce’s Car Wash, a predictable but still effective choice), and a racetrack scene in which the competing creatures are, you guessed it, sea horses. And, yes, one of them is called Seabiscuit.

All this, however, is needed to balance out Shark Tale’s flaws. For a start, its central character, South-Side-of-the-Reef-dweller Oscar (voiced by Will Smith), is a bit of twat. It’s hard to like a character so shallow his big dream is to someday live in a penthouse apartment complete with DVD player and surround-sound speakers (how they will work underwater is not explained). And it doesn’t help that his incessant, smartarse jive-jabber becomes irritating after about 20 minutes.

But the biggest problem is that the design looks clunky, cluttered and, well, just not very aquatic. The lead fish, for example, are mostly lurid, misshapen creatures. Vertical most of the time rather than fishily horizontal, they bring to mind rejected characters from one of those Soviet-era cartoons, perhaps from a landlocked country like the Czech Republic that only saw seafood in tins before the Velvet Revolution came.

As if to distract us from these mutant creatures of the deep, the backgrounds in the underwater city are awash with annoyingly relentless product placement jokes (‘Gup’ for Gap, ‘Coral-Cola’

for Coca-Cola, and so on), a gag that stopped being funny in Shrek 2 after about five minutes. And that’s the essence of why Shark Tale won’t go down as an animation classic: it treads water when it should be swimming upstream, leading the studio forward. John Lasseter and the Pixar posse won’t be losing much sleep over this one.

Shark Tale is servicable, family entertainment, but not half as sharp as it thinks it is. There’s no denying the appeal of seeing Scorsese and De Niro reunited onscreen for the first time since Guilty By Suspicion, but although the vocal performances often amuse and delight, the overall design is charmless.

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Shark Tale

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Shark Tale Review

Shark Tale is derivative and full of pop culture in-jokes. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 21:56, 02 January 2012 | Report This Post

Jack Black is Class!!!

Empire is completely wrong on this one,titanic bits are ge ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnPaul1996 at 16:42, 27 June 2008 | Report This Post

i really enjoyed this film, apparantly far more than most others... it's funny in many different ways and the story line isn't half bad either. it's not a patch on Finding Nemo, but then again few things are. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 13:01, 04 May 2008 | Report This Post

ok am i like the ONLY one who liked shark tale? cos' i frickin loved it! don't know about you guys. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mozzy_gal at 20:31, 08 February 2008 | Report This Post

Okay not great. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 01:52, 01 February 2008 | Report This Post

Okay not great. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 01:52, 01 February 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Finding Nemo for chavs

Shit Sandwich! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nicholsonsmhead at 16:59, 30 May 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Finding Nemo for chavs

For such a stellar cast - very disappointing! ... More

Posted by Fenwick at 21:03, 29 May 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Finding Nemo for chavs

i agree with the others agentgoth, it was a real big let down and simply was not funny ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by miss_phoenix at 18:10, 10 April 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Finding Nemo for chavs

I actually didn't compare it to Finding Nemo once I was watching it. It's very different and really fun. Robert De Niro and his Mafia sharks were definately the best thing.ove the scene when he's talking to Oscar and the octopus is trying to order a pizza. ... More

Posted by AgentGoth at 09:20, 10 April 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Finding Nemo for chavs

Good clean fun for the family and a few very memorable funny moments, but like Da Big Cheese said - it was hard not to compare it to Finding Nemo. In terms of plot and characterisation of sea creatures, Nemo was far superior unfortunately - plus, it didn't have all of those annoying product placements, which should have been amusing, but really were not. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jessica_ca_ca_ca at 09:01, 10 April 2006 | Report This Post

Finding Nemo for chavs

I was trying my hardest not to compare this to Finding Nemo. I really was. But I couldn't help it. I was also trying to keep in mind that this is a kids film, and trying to not label the characters based on which big name celeb was doing the voiceover. But it's very difficult; especially when the characters are as shallow as the humour. This film doesn't tread any new ground in the obviously highly lucrative genre. These films generate millions, because parents will take their kids to see any... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Da Big Cheese at 22:48, 09 April 2006 | Report This Post

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