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Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Rob Letterman
Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie , Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Peter Falk, Katie Couric
Writing Credits:
Michael J. Wilson, Rob Letterman

The story of what happens when one little fish tells a great white lie ...

A comic catch from the studio that brought you Shrek, Shark Tale is a hilarious hit and “a wonderful under-the-sea adventure for movie lovers of all ages!” (Clay Smith, Access Hollywood)

Oscar (Will Smith), a lowly tongue-scrubber at the local Whale Wash, becomes an improbable hero when he tells a great white lie. To keep his secret, Oscar teams up with an outcast vegetarian shark, Lenny (Jack Black), and the two become the most unlikely of friends. When his lie begins to unravel, it’s up to Oscar’s loyal friend Angie (Renee Zellweger) and Lenny to help him stand up to the most feared shark in the water (Robert DeNiro) and find his true place in the reef.

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$47.604 million on 4016 screens.
Domestic Gross
$160.762 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/8/2005

• Audio Commentary with Directors Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson and Rob Letterman
• “Rough Waters” Blooper Reel
• “Star Fish” Featurette
• “The Music of Shark Tale” Featurette
• “A Fishified World” Featurette
• “Gigi the Whale” Short
• “A Tour You Can’t Reef-Use!!” Still Galleries
• Cast and Filmmaker Biographies
• “Club Oscar”
• Previews
• DreamWorks Kids Features
• Easter Egg


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


Shark Tale (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 11, 2005)

2004’s Shark Tale didn’t become the year’s biggest computer-animated movie. Indeed, it didn’t come close to the zillions grossed by Shrek 2 or The Incredibles. Nonetheless, its $160 million take was pretty satisfying, and it established that CG cartoons remain intensely popular with audiences.

In this one, we start with a quick introduction to nice guy shark Lenny (voiced by Jack Black). He’s a vegetarian who picks flowers and frees worms used as bait. He stands out as unusual, for the other sharks are the kings of the sea, and the rest of fish society lives in constant fear of them.

Fish Oscar (Will Smith) works at a whale wash but he dreams of affluence. His friend Angie the receptionist (Renee Zellweger) works with him and pines for a romantic relationship with him. They work for Mr. Sykes (Martin Scorsese), a pufferfish who cheeses off shark boss Don Lino (Robert De Niro). Lino insists that Sykes start to pay him protection money, so since Oscar owes his boss $5000, Sykes demands immediate repayment. He gives Oscar 24 hours to repay the money.

Angie raises the money for Oscar, but he blows it at the track. Sykes has his jellyfish henchmen (Ziggy Marley and Doug E. Doug) torture Oscar. In the meantime, Lino tells his sons Lenny and Frankie (Michael Imperioli) that he plans to pass the business on to them. Lenny resists this, as he doesn’t have the requisite level of viciousness in him.

The various paths intertwine when the sharks come upon Oscar and the jellyfish. When Oscar flees Frankie, the shark accidentally rams into an anchor and dies. The jellyfish see the results and believe that Oscar offed to shark. He lies to take credit for this and he becomes the reef’s “shark killer”. This brings him fame, fortune, and - much to the dismay of Angie - the affection of gold-digging fish Lola (Angelina Jolie). The rest of the film follows paths connected to this theme along with Oscar’s eventual partnership with Lenny and other issues connected to Don Lino.

Shark Tale didn’t get very good reviews, and I didn’t expect a whole lot from it. I’ve not been terribly impressed by non-Pixar CG flicks; even megasmashes like Shrek and its sequel left me moderately cold.

While I wouldn’t endorse Tale as a great - or even very good - flick, it offered more entertainment than I expected. If I dissect it, the movie probably won’t fare very well. The animation is passable at best. A lot of times the various elements don’t connect very well. Mouth movements often seem detached from the faces, and other body parts don’t link to the characters successfully. The whole thing sometimes looks crude and awkward.

The animators also give the characters more movement than we’d expect from believable personalities. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t use the word “believable” for talking fish, but they move so much that it becomes a distraction. It feels like the animators think “more is more” and that constant gesturing will add life. It doesn’t, and the characters just seem hyper.

It doesn’t help that the movie favors some really ugly art. Actually, the undersea backgrounds often look lovely, but the characters themselves meld human and fish unattractively. Some of the roles look better than others; for example, the sharks are acceptably attractive. I don’t like the way they integrate human faces onto fish bodies, though. Oscar may be the creepiest animated lead I’ve ever seen.

Story-wise, Tale presents a pretty predictable fable. It’s not much more than the usual morality piece, and it comes across as rather disjointed in the way it follows the various threads. “Be yourself” doesn’t stretch things into new territory, but the flick can’t even follow that issue in a terribly coherent manner.

In regard to the flick’s humor, Tale comes from the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” school. It tosses off scads of puns and also lots of wacky bits. The movie has a pretty good freeze-frame life, as you’ll want to slow down the film to check out all the details. Only some of them are funny, however, and the gags are hit or miss. I do like a few of the more clever bits, and it’s fun to see the characters mock lines from movies in which the voice actors appear. For instance, we get an obvious riff on Zellweger’s Jerry Maguire and an amusingly subtle allusion to Smith’s Ali.

Frankly, I think we need to get Congress to ban Godfather parodies. At one point, these were clever, but they’ve been beaten to death over the years. Granted, the inclusion of De Niro as the mob boss makes this one a little more fun, but I could live without another mafia spoof. At least it gets the inevitable Jaws gag out of the way early, though tosses out a much more clever poke later.

As for the actors, Smith proves to be the weakest link. He’s usually a charming actor, but here he tries too hard and he seems grating and obnoxious. Zellweger is simply bland, but De Niro and Scorsese do nicely. They dig into their parts fairly well and it’s a treat to hear the bits they do together. Black also provides a nice turn as Lenny; he sounds more like Squiggy, but he adds personality to the part.

Despite this mix of criticisms, I must admit I mostly enjoyed Shark Tale. Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this film falls into that category. It does little to become special, though it certainly boasts a strong cast. DreamWorks CG movies like to hire as many big names as possible, and Tale reflects that. I don’t think this is necessary to make a good flick, but it seems to work for them. Ultimately, Tale doesn’t qualify as a classic, but it provides a reasonably amount of entertainment.

Footnote: stick it out through the credits for some bonus footage.

The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Shark Tale appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Computer animation invariably looks great on DVD, and Shark Tale was another stellar transfer.

Sharpness seemed immaculate. At all times, the movie remained terrifically crisp and detailed, and not a single instance of softness or fuzziness occurred. The image stayed detailed and distinct from start to finish. No signs of jagged edges, moiré effects or edge enhancement appeared, and the movie also was totally free of any source flaws.

The ocean setting of Tale offered a nicely bright and varied palette, and the DVD reproduced the colors wonderfully. From the many hues of sea critters to the vegetation to the other natural elements, the movie demonstrated a terrific variety of hues, all of which seemed terrifically vibrant and lively. Black levels also looked deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly dense. If any problems, I couldn’t find them, as Tale presented a simply outstanding picture.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Shark Tale seemed perfectly solid, though it could have demonstrated more pizzazz. The ocean setting offered a lot of opportunities for a nice sense of atmosphere, and the movie delivered them reasonably well. Quieter scenes presented good ambience, and the louder ones kicked the action into gear nicely. These only occurred a few times, but they served to create a lively setting when necessary. The elements seemed well placed and integrated cleanly. The surrounds added a fair amount of unique audio during the more active scenes, though they weren’t terribly involving the rest of the time. I thought the mix needed more lively usage of the rears, though enough happened here to make the audio positive as a whole.

Audio quality seemed solid. Speech was distinct and natural, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems with intelligibility. Music was bright and dynamic, as both the songs and score sounded concise and full. Effects also sounded tight and accurate. The various elements were well defined and detailed, and they presented fairly good low-end response. Overall, this was an above-average soundtrack, though not a stellar one.

When we head to the DVD’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from directors Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron and Rob Letterman. While the trio covers a nice mix of topics, they toss out too much praise and happy talk to make this a consistently enjoyable track. Among the subjects discussed, we learn about the cast and their work, visual schemes and animation issues, storytelling concerns and deleted concepts, various references, and character development.

In other words, they go over pretty much all the notions one would expect, and they do so in a bubbly manner. I feel as though I should really like this commentary, but it just indulges in too much fluffy content to really excel. I’m happy they like their movie so much, but I don’t want to hear about it over and over again. Still, despite those flaws, this track acts as a good overview of the requisite topics.

Up next comes Rough Waters. This 102-second clip presents a compilation of “technical goofs”. These echo similar features on the Shrek DVDs. They’re occasionally creepy and moderately entertaining.

Fans will enjoy Club Oscar, a new three-minute and 35-second short created for the DVD. Similar to Shrek 2’s “Far Far Away Idol”, this one offers a dance sequence in which we see movie characters strut their stuff to various tunes. It’s nothing special but it’s fun.

The “Club Oscar” areas also includes Get Your Groove On!. Led by choreographer Hi-Hat, we get a 17-minute and 19-second compilation that teaches different dance moves. It’s another cute feature that kids should like.

In a featurette called Star Fish, we get an 11-minute and 25-second look at the cast. It mixes movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and comments from Bergeron, Jenson, Letterman, producers Jeffrey Katzenberg, Allison Lyon Segan, and Bill Damaschke, actors Will Smith, Jack Black, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese. We get a few insights into approaching the characters and the work, but mostly we just hear a retelling of the story and lots of praise. I do like the parts that show the recording sessions, though, and it’s especially fun to watch Black and Smith interact. Those parts help redeem this otherwise fluffy piece.

Another featurette entitled The Music of Shark Tale follows the expected subject matter. This four-minute and 24-second piece includes notes from musicians Missy Elliott, Christina Aguilera, Ziggy Marley, Sean Paul, Justin Timberlake, Ludacris, and Mary J. Blige. We hear a smidgen about the particulars of a few songs, but this exists mainly as a puffy promotional program aimed at moving some albums. It’s a waste of time.

A Fishified World lasts five minutes, 48 seconds. It offers statements from Katzenberg, Jenson, Jolie, Smith, Black, Bergeron, producer Janet Healy, CG supervisor Kevin Rafferty, production designer Dan St. Pierre, visual effects supervisor Doug Cooper, lead character technical director Kevin Ochs, surfacing supervisor Wes Burian, and art directors Sam Michlap and Seth Engstrom. They discuss taking human elements and transforming them into the underwater setting. We also find comments about general visual design. As usual, some generic praise pops up here, but it proves substantially more informative than the prior featurettes as it gives us decent insight into the various decisions. It remains superficial but at least it’s worth a look.

For the 78-second Gigi the Whale, we get an odd piece. It takes a recording studio chat about a real mobster called “Gigi the Whale”, but it’s been animated so it looks like an actual killer whale taped it. The story is entertaining, and this becomes a clever way to present it.

We can traipse through a variety of subjects in A Tour You Can’t Reef-Use! Select the “worm” icon and you’ll find a still gallery with character studies for Oscar, Angie, Lola, Lenny, Sykes, Ernie and Bernie, Don Lino, Frankie, Luca, Willie and the extras. Each displays models for the characters.

If you choose “Whale Wash”, you’ll get a variety of options. You can “explore” Sykes’ office and also look at still galleries with details and plans for the machines as well as the wash as a whole and Lenny’s hideout. The “explore” function is pretty lame - it just focuses on a few items in the location like chairs and clocks - but the stills offer nice close-ups of the various elements.

Similar elements pop up in “Uptown”, which lets you “explore” Oscar’s penthouse and also check out stillframe art under “The View from the Top”, “Designing the City” and “City Props”. “Downtown” presents stills with “Layouts, Drawing and Architectural Elements” plus “Creating Signs for the City”. Under “Shipwreck”, we can “explore” Don Lino’s office and look at more stills via “Frankie’s Funeral”, “Creating the Ship” and “Restaurant Designs”.

When we head to the “Race Track”, we locate stills in the “Drawings and Paintings” and “Race Track Props” domains. Finally, “Wasteland” presents “Drawing and Paintings”. All of these add up to a lot of good artwork that lets us check out the details and production elements nicely.

More stillframe information pops up in the Cast and Filmmakers domains. Within the former we get entries for actors Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Peter Falk, and Katie Couric. The latter displays listings for directors Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron, and Rob Letterman, producers Bill Damaschke, Janet Healy, Allison Lyon Segan, executive producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, screenwriter Michael J. Wilson, composer Hans Zimmer, music supervisors Darren Higman and Laura Wasserman, supervising editor Nick Fletcher, production designer Daniel St. Pierre, art directors Samuel Michlap and Seth Engstrom, visual effects supervisor Doug Cooper, and supervising animators Ken Stuart Duncan, Lionel Gallat, Fabrice Joubert, Fabio Lignini, and William Salazar. These offer above-average looks at the participants; they remain in the “annotated filmography” realm to a degree, but they provide more details than usual. I was shocked to learn that Jenson started in the business back in 1977. That means she must be pushing 50, but she looks amazing! I thought she was about 30.

Under the “DreamWorks Kids” banner, a mix of other extras appear. Rock the Reef includes “Sykes’ Jukebox” and a music video for “Car Wash”. The former just acts as an alternate chapter search; choose a song from the movie and it’ll let you jump right to that tune. The latter presents a clip for the tune covered by Missy Elliott and Christina Aguilera. It’s basically just movie clips combined with shots of the ladies in the recording studio. It seems cheap and cheesy - kind of like Aguilera herself.

Fin-Filled Scenes is essentially another alternate version of “Scene Selection”. It provides different clips under such subsections as “Laugh Out Loud” and “Gross Out”. It seems useless to me, but I guess it doesn’t hurt.

Must Sea Games presents three components. “Disguise Lenny” lets you play dress-up with the shark. You have to pick the right look for different scenarios. It’s simple and fairly boring. “Fish Eat Fish” requires you to figure out what organisms ingest which others. It doesn’t present much challenge, but at least it’s somewhat educational for little ones.

For the last game, “Place Your Bets!” lets you go to the track. You choose a seahorse from the five offered and then see if he wins the race. It’s just a simple guessing game and not much fun. Apparently it ends the same way every time, so there’s no replayability to it.

At least one Easter Egg appears. Go to “Scenes” on the main menu and click left. This highlights a “no left turn” street sign. Click “enter” and you’ll get to check out the color script for the movie. This includes 47 stills that show the paintings created to delineate the proper tones for various sequences.

The DVD opens with some ads. We find promos for Madagascar and Wallace and Gromit. These also appear in the New from DreamWorks Animation section. The Gromit bit is moderately interesting as it presents a decent look behind the scenes. Previews includes ads for Shrek 2, Balto: Winds of Change, and The Land Before Time. In regard to the pieces that start the disc, annoyingly, unlike on most DVDs, you can’t zip these in a simple way; you can fast-forward through them but not use the chapter skip or menu buttons.

Positive note: most of the supplements offer optional subtitles.

Although I wasn’t wild about Shark Tale, it came as a pleasant surprise. Perhaps that’s because I had low expectations for the flick, but I still enjoyed it most of the time despite a mix of flaws. The DVD offers excellent visuals along with generally positive audio. There’s not a ton of substance in most of the extras, but a reasonably informative audio commentary and lots of still artwork makes this a good package. No, Shark Tale isn’t a classic, but it’s a fun diversion, and I recommend this DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5454 Stars Number of Votes: 33
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