Forget about comparing Shark Tale to the monster hit Finding Nemo.
Instead, try to enjoy a new film that puts to good use the voices of Will Smith, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and especially Renee Zellweger, who exudes a sweetish charm without over doing it.
Surely, the animation and story could have been smarter, the moral lessons less loud and the references to classic gangster films like Goodfellas, The Godfather or Scarface subtler. Yet, the tank is just about half-full, and it is difficult to resist the voice cast and the vibrant colours.
But parents would still be posed with doubt: will their children still like a film without getting many of its adult movie references and the not-so-subtle references to gay culture?
some parents may even be troubled by a villainous character urging his younger brother to be tough: "Lenny, if you wanna make pop happy, you gotta kill something."
Young audiences could enjoy the splash colour and fast action, leading the film to a decent but unspectacular gross.
The newest film from DreamWorks, whose gloriously funny Shrek 2 has grossed about $850 million worldwide, was directed by Vicky Jenson (Shrek), Bibo Bergeron (The Road To El Dorado) and newcomer Rob Letterman.To older folks, hearing the voices of De Niro and his favoUrite director Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) in the same film would be an additional thrill.
Oscar (Smith) is a tiny but highly animated fish with large dreams. He wants to be at the top of the reef with a luxurious life. But while his dreams keep growing, he continues working as a tongue-cleaner at the local Whale Wash.
Angel (Zellweger), secretly in love with him, is frustrated that she can't make him realise that he has a decent job and she loves him dearly.
When Oscar falsely takes credit for the accidental death of a shark called Frankie, and becomes an instant hero known as Oscar the shark-slayer, he doesn't realise what lethal complications will ensue. For he has attracted the attention of a self-centered Puffer-fish, Sykes (Scorsese) and a sexy vamp, Lola (Jolie). Sykes knows people in the underwater mob; you can expect what is going to come.
De Niro plays Don Lino the shark, preparing his sons, Frankie (Michael Imperioli) and Lenny (Black) to take over the family business. Frankie was believed to be the perfect heir to the mob world. Brother Lenny does not really relish the competitive world, a closet vegetarian who likes to dress up a dolphin.
When news of Frankie's demise reaches Don Lino, he also gets to hear Oscar's claims that have made him a hero. Meanwhile, Lenny is more than upset that his brother is killed. He is afraid that his father would expect too much from him now, and runs off with Oscar, pretending to be a dolphin.
There are surely some moral lessons in the film but it could also send mixed signals about ethnic and sexual backgrounds; Italians have already started complaining that it perpetuates gangster stereotypes. And the film won't thrill every vegetarian or homosexual person.
Director: Vicky Jenson, Letterman and Bibo Bergeron.
Running time: 90 minutes
Rating: PG for some mild language and crude humor.
Produced by: DreamWorks