Shark Tale

Shark Tale (2004)
Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Cast: Will Smith, Jack Black, Renee Zellwegger, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Angelina Jolie
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Bloopers, Previews & More

Will Smith provides the voice of Oscar, a small time fish who dreams of bigger things than working at a local Whale Wash. Trying time and time again to get rich and famous through fast failed ideas, Oscar is up to his gills in debt to his boss, a puffer fish named Sykes (Martin Scorsese). Unfortunately Sykes works for the mob and demands that Oscar pay up his debt of $5000 before the end of the next day. Angie (Renee Zellwegger), his best friend, offers him a way to settle his debt. But before Oscar can give Sykes the money, he bets it on a racing horse fish and loses everything. Frustrated by Oscar’s actions Sykes assigns his Rastafarian muscle to teach him a lesson.

Don Lino (Robert De Niro) is the head of the mob. His two sons Frankie (Michael Imperioli) and Lenny (Jack Black) are destined to take over the family business. Frankie has grown up to be the shark Don’s always wanted his sons to be but Lenny has other feelings about the matter. You see, he’s a vegetarian and just can’t get over the idea of actually eating – a fish.

Coincidentally just as Oscar’s being tormented by Sykes boys, Don, frustrated with his son, sends Frankie out to teach Lenny a thing about sharkhood. Frankie and Oscar cross paths and Frankie’s accidentally killed by a ship’s anchor. With the local reefs constant fear of the shark population, Oscar takes this opportunity to take the credit for the death of the shark and becomes the "Shark Slayer". Now a superstar, Oscar finally has all he’s ever desired. But will he also lose those that mattered most when he felt he had nothing?

"Shark Tale" is the latest animation feature from Dreamworks Animation. Co-directed by Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron and Rob Letterman, "Shark Tale" is a decent family effort that tries to combine various premises from classic films. The mob element is totally "The Godfather" while the shark element, as well as some inside humor, takes an immediate reference to "Jaws." Unfortunately the film can’t seem to decide what it really wants to focus on. It jumps so often between so many different story arcs that it’s hard to get attached to anything that’s happening on screen. Yes, the film looks absolutely fantastic but so many of the jokes are directed to adults that most young children won’t get them. And most are so tongue-in-cheek that they deliver a chuckle but nothing quite like Dreamworks animated giant, "Shrek." It’s almost like Dreamworks decided that if they throw enough flash at the screen every two seconds, children would be happy – and box office success seems to prove the point.

Pixar Studios are still the masters in CGI perfection, hands down. Anyone who saw the absolutely brilliant "The Incredibles" would understand exactly what I mean. That’s not to say that "Shark Tale" is bad. It’s just so mediocre to what Pixar delivers by comparison. For your next CGI feature, please focus more on developing interesting characters instead of relying on superstars to recreate their personas on screen. Oscar is Will Smith, not the other way around. Craig T. Nelson became Mr. Incredible. Holly Hunter became Elastigirl. You get my point.

Presented in <$16x9,anamorphic> 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> version, "Shark Tale" looks fantastic. Watching the flawless presentation on my display really makes me doubtful of how much better this film would look in HD. Nowhere in the entire film is there a speck of grain and resolution is razor sharp. The wide color palette is the thing that pops off the screen at first and continues to do so even after the film ends and the credits role. I was so impressed by the look of the film that I’d say it made me enjoy it more. It’s pure eye candy. Sometimes though, so many things are going on in a particular scene that it is hard to catch everything. Thankfully the image never looks compressed even when the screens filled with hundreds of objects moving in all directions. This is a coral reef so expect the film to be mainly lit up making blacks rare.

The <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 (448 Kbps) is great. From start to finish the film the entire sound field is engaged. Dialog is crystal clear and even at stressful volume levels never distorts or sounds unnatural. The film also has an abundance of music placed throughout each scene and always adds to the moment instead of over dominating it. Mind you I didn’t really care for the soundtrack. There wasn’t enough Bob Marley for my taste. Later in the film, Oscar and Lenny are having a staged fight and this is where dynamics take notice. Listen as each character is thrown around the screen, enveloping you into the on-screen action. A great sounding mix, which could have been that much better with a <$DTS,DTS> option. Dreamworks, please wake up and go back to your old ways.

"Rough Waters" is a series of incomplete animation tests that act as bloopers. Unfortunately these types of gag reels are more a sign of desperation to add something funny that really isn’t. Technical bloopers. Boring.

"Star Fish" (11:30) is your typical promotional featurette that offers nothing but quick interviews with the various casts on the role of each character. Do the film makers not realize that we most likely watched the film first and don’t require these featurettes. Why not show us more of the creative process or CGI techniques.

"The Music of Shark Tale" (4:20) is a quick way to sell a soundtrack. Give it a quick watch just to see how clueless Christina Aguilera is. This is a children’s film and she’s wearing a push up bra while recording her offerings to the soundtrack. Great role models Hollywood pumps out these days. Pathetic!

"A Fishified World" (5:40) again repeats the efforts of the first two features only this time talking with the creative team for a WHOLE 5 minutes. Why not just combine all 3 features and save us the time from jumping from one feature to the other.

"Gigi the Whale" (1:15) is actually the best feature by far. Featuring "The Soprano’s" Vincent Pastore, you must listen to this short clip. I’ll leave it at that.

"A Tour You Can’t Reef-Use!!" Is a series of collected artists renderings pertaining to the creative process of each character as well as various locations through out the film. Check it out as it features some really nice artwork and gives you an idea of what earlier concepts would of looked like for various characters.

An <$commentary,Audio Commentary> by Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson and Rob Letterman is available, surprisingly not listed in the audio section of the disc, and is worth a listen. Not quite up to the stuff that Pixar offers in their commentaries, it’s still an insightful offering that talks about the various efforts on how the film came together.

Previews, Cast and Filmmakers profiles finish off the special features section of the disc.

But wait! There is one more feature only available in the opening menu. Highlight the word Oscar on your screen and you’re taken to "Club Oscar." I guess the positive response that "Shrek 2" received for its American Idol bonus feature helped push this weaker extra forward. It does feature all new footage, as well as the return of all the voice talent – but it’s uninteresting. There is an instructional dance tutorial that teaches you how to get your groove on like the characters in the film.

"Shark Tale" is an all right film but again feels like the creators didn’t really know who they were making this film for. Rent first before purchasing is all I can say.