You know what a fish looks like out of water- flapping around with a frightful look on its face, praying and hoping that things will get better? But they never do. It just dies. There is no better way of explaining what it feels like to watch "Shark Tale."
Perhaps my cynicism in regards to "Shark Tale" is birthed out of my desire for people, especially people who market to children, to be creative, responsible and genuine. This movie felt too much like watching a commercial for commercialism.
Every time a product came on screen with a clever sea-related pun, I thought I had to cover the eyes of all the children in the theater. I wanted them to maintain their innocence and not be tricked into buying Pepsi or Starbucks or Nike. I wanted to shield them from the not-very-subtle product placement. Is this really what America has come to? I swear I'm moving to Canada pretty soon.
As far as a story goes, "Shark Tale" is nothing we haven't seen. It's a mixture of "Pimp My Ride" and "Finding Nemo." Though, I truly believe that "Finding Nemo" is a far superior picture.
Oscar (Will Smith) is a self-declared "nobody" who wants to be a "somebody." He crosses paths with a vegetarian shark, Lenny (Jack Black), who will become an outcast if he doesn't prove to his brother that he will eat meat. Said meat is Oscar, who at the time is being tortured by Rastafarian jellyfish. (I'm not lying). An anchor fatefully falls on Lenny's brother and kills him.
So, Oscar tells everyone that he killed Lenny's brother. Now everyone thinks he is a "somebody" and he gets cash, ladyfish and fame. But he's living a lie. Eventually, he makes things right, kind of. Actually, not really.
The most annoying part of this whole movie is its use of the mob. The mob has no place in children's movies. The mob brings gambling, killing and Martin Scorsese. And no one wants that. No one. And what on Earth is Robert de Niro doing using his voice in the movie? He was Raging Bull, for God's sake!
This movie has shallow values, really bad writing and "Nemo" envy. The jokes never go beyond the surface, and no one in the audience could really care about the characters. Well, except for the audience members who are screaming, drooling or shitting in their diapers.
I would hope that the integration of the hip-hop culture into children's movies would bring with it the aspects of the culture that make it so powerful: its originality, its denial of the status quo and the fearlessness to be oneself. Instead, it has brought everything that hip-hop is not. It has brought with it what MTV has made hip-hop into: focused on materialism and the need to prove one's status.
"Shark Tale" is a disappointment. Although it is very beautiful visually, a children's movie needs more substance. "Shark Tale" flaps and flaps around, but it never quite finds the water.