Shark Tale is the movie equivalent of “Sleeping with the fishes.” Next to Antz, the second most obvious DreamWorks Animation copycat movie is definitely Shark Tale. It only came out a year after Finding Nemo, but it’s obvious which one is better. Shark Tale is objectively the worst DreamWorks animated movie ever made. It has a serious identity crisis that mixes everything that worked for Shrek with serious adult themes, a celebrity cast, and lowest common denominator pop culture references. Think “gangster” meets “gangsta” with anthropomorphic humanoid fish people. I know it’s technically bad, but I still really enjoy Shark Tale even now. Not enough to think it deserved a Best Animated Feature nomination (it was a slow year), but I was 9 when my dad took my brother and I to see it. So it was still a prominent edition in my DVD collection. Even though it took me several years to fully understand the bizarre amount of mob movie references.
I wasn’t even into hip hop at the time, so my main draw was Will Smith. He bares an uncomfortable resemblance to his bluestreak cleaner wrasse character Oscar. Smith does his thing, but I’m sure he’s just as embarrassed as most of the other celebrities in the movie. Shark Tale is at least 60% fish puns (Katie Current for example). Complete with fish themed real world advertisements. Oscar is a lowly tongue scrubber at the local Whale Wash. He uses get rich quick schemes in an effort to reach the top of the reef. Renée Zellweger brings her usual best to angelfish Angie. The typical nice girl coworker secretly in love with the lead. Most fish give Oscar a hard time including his boss’ right hands Ernie and Bernie the Jamaican jellyfish. Despite being a kids movie, several gangster movie/TV heavyweights lend their voice to shark mob families. Robert De Niro is shark Don Lino and Martin Scorsese himself voices Oscar’s pufferfish boss Sykes. Oscar’s biggest problem is getting in deep with loan sharks and having to pay back his boss at the seahorse track. Which attracts the attention of Angelina Jolie as sexy lionfish gold digger Lola.
The plot kicks in when Oscar’s story intersects with Don Lino’s sons Frankie and the far less fearsome Lenny. Pre-Po Jack Black voices gay metaphor Lenny who just wants to be a vegetarian. He also dresses like a dolphin later on if it wasn’t obvious. When Frankie is killed by an anchor, Oscar takes credit as the “Sharkslayer.” Turning him into a rich somebody, but when Lenny swims back into his life, they become unlikely friends and keep the lie going. Until the mob catches up to them and the lie comes out. Ending in another big Shrek or Shrek 2 style party complete with a hip hop version of “Car Wash” sung by fish Missy Elliot and jellyfish Christina Aguilera. Apart from some genuinely fun bits like the shrimp scene, it’s mostly a bunch of unnecessary gross out gags. The computer animation has the underwater look, but it’s actually pretty ugly to look at. Fish faces will probably creep out the uninitiated. The hip hop soundtrack has several classics, but it’s just as out of place as everything else. Shark Tale is a fishy guilty pleasure that DreamWorks probably wants to forget.