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</script></div>{/googleAds}Major Animation studios like Pixar and DreamWorks Animation are spoiling us as movie fans. Some of the best films of the last few years have come from these studios and they just happen to be computer generated animations. With each subsequent release of movies like Monsters Inc., Shrek, and Finding Nemo, our cravings for truly fulfilling entertainment are being met time and time again. That is until the release of Shark Tale.

This confusing mess of a film is a self-described mob comedy spoof... with an urban flavor... that takes place under the sea. In other words, rather than rely on a truly original script and uniquely robust characters, why not capitalize on the success of Cable TV's The Sopranos by adding a hip, urban "chic"ness, while riding the still flapping coattails of Finding Nemo? Is it a pop culture parody, a romantic comedy or an action comedy? It's this scatterbrained nature coupled with the lack of a true personality that ultimately sinks the film and puts a huge question mark above all future CG animations. So, for the first time since Luxo Jr. hit the scene in 1986, we begin to wonder if the amazing streak of successful CG animated features can continue.

But let's not blame the star-studded cast and capable crew for Shark Tale's failure to uphold the animation legacy. Will Smith and Renee Zelwegger are nearly flawless as the voices of the leading pair of fish who earn their dollars at the local whale wash. Their chemistry is seamless, but ultimately the script keeps either from becoming truly memorable characters. Smith is Oscar, a "little man" at the bottom of the food chain who works the tongue shift swabbing whale's tongues at the local Whale Wash. He's so busy following his dreams of stardom and riches that he doesn't see the wealth of beauty at his fintips in the form of Angie, a sexy "working girl" Angel Fish, voiced by Zellwegger. Angie longs for Oscar but is frustrated by his constant reference to her as his "best friend."

As good as Smith and Zellwegger are, so is the remaining cast as forgettable. Jack Black is somewhat subdued by his own standards as Lenny, a Great White shark second in line to the Lino "family" legacy. But Lenny has a problem that stands to jeopardize his relationship with his Dad He's a vegetarian, and he's not yet out of the closet. Robert De Niro makes his animation debut as the voice of Don Lino, Lenny's dad and "godfather" of the reef. Also making his animation debut is Martin Scorsese as Sykes, a Lino family "foot soldier" in the form of a puffer fish, who's always looking to make a fast buck. De Niro and Scorsese improvised many of their lines, which shows in some of the scenes, but mostly, their appearances are throw-away. They just don't have anything to say and we have to blame that on writers Rob Letterman and Damian Shannon.

Out of the whole lot, Angelina Jolie most closely approaches what might be considered a memorable performance. She plays Lola, the "gold-digging" femme fatale who is admittedly extremely shallow and only seeks Oscar's affection when she realizes it could directly affect her monetary interests. Jolie clearly enjoys her role. We can hear it in the dusky dulcet tones of her whispery voice. I, as well as Oscar, came under her spell every time she appeared on the screen.

We are supposed to sympathize with most of Shark Tale's characters, but neither is developed to the point of us caring. And the ones we do come to know, display either repulsive traits or get involved in morally objectionable acts. For instance, the film's central conflict that Oscar enjoys a temporary hero's fame, is based upon a gigantic lie that swells and ultimately ends up hurting many of his friends. Finding Nemo experienced most of its success because of the rich and amiable assortment of characters that allowed anyone to find a friend to latch onto. Whereas Nemo is a wonderful little tale built around the love of a father and son with their separation as the driving force, Shark Tale is a father son story built around a big lie as its driving force.

Sure, Shark Tale has its brilliant moments, and I must say that I personally enjoyed the not so subtle Sopranos references complete with familiar voices. But how well do these self-reverential winks play to the non-Sopranos public?

It is a technically astute film with a brilliant color palette of underwater flora, but we've seen this before. DreamWorks brags of its innovations brought to the production. It is the first high-end, all CG feature film to be produced entirely in southern California, as northern California had been the mecca of such production for many years, but ultimately who cares. We want a unique and innovative story with weighty personalities and a storyline able to hold the interest of someone older than six. Unfair or not, Shark Tale will undoubtedly be compared to its CG predecessors, but doing so leaves it with an odor not unlike that of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

From now on, simply throwing "Pixar" or "DreamWorks Animation" in front of a film's title is no longer a sure-fire guarantee to get my money. Nor that of millions of other Americans.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 [CC]; ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Stereo [CC]; FRENCH: Dolby Digital 5.1; FRENCH: Dolby Digital Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; outtakes; featurettes.

* Commentaries:
o With director Bibo Bergeron and Vicky Jenson
* Featurettes:
o A Tour You Can't Reef-use - interactive, in-depth guide through the Shark TaleWorld
o The Music of Shark Tale
o Star Fish - Meet the Cast featurette
o A Fishified World - featurette
* Deleted Scenes:
o Rough Waters - Hilarious technical bloopers
* Music Video - Club Oscar
* DVD-Rom Features: DWK: Dreamworks Kids - this way to play! More than 20 exciting games and activities.

Number of discs: 1

Packaging: Keepcase

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