Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

The previews for Shark Tale looked pretty funny and the cast was awesome so I had pretty high hopes for this movie.  The amazing thing was, after all that,  how much it disappointed me.  

The story seemed like a can't miss plot.  Outcast vegetarian shark Lenny, is the shame of his mafia style shark family.  Goofy big-mouthed dreamer Oscar is a little fish who works at the Whale Wash and dreams of bigger things.  The two get together and hatch a scheme where Lenny gets to disappear to a peaceful existence and Oscar gets to become a hero by supposedly killing a shark and protecting the community.

Although comparisons to Pixar's Finding Nemo were unavoidable it's not really a fare association because the two movies really have nothing in common except that they are about fish.  The problem is Dreamworks animation always seems to be following Pixar.  Last time they did it with the film Antz coming out at the same time as Pixar's A Bugs Life.  Both movies this time took place on an anthill and followed the story of an ant who was outcast from the colony.

Usually I enjoy the Dreamworks films as the inferior but at least amusing second cousins of Pixar's work.  Shrek and Shrek 2 were funny.    I actually liked Antz just about as much as A Bug's Life.  But what Dreamworks does to push it's films to a wider audience is add gratuitous amounts of pop culture references that will presumably tickle adults as much as fart jokes amuse the kids.  Pixar on the other hand uses it's winking nods to pop culture more sparingly and with greater skill.  

Shark Tale represents the new philosophy that Shrek 2 introduced earlier this year - this being that the favorite moments for most viewers are the pop culture jokes so lets make a whole movie that is just a never ending barrage of the familiar.  Seen Goodfellas?  Well keep an eye on Robert DeNiro's Shark Pack.  Even Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese voices a role.  Remember MC Hammer?  No?  Well, Will Smith's little fish, Oscar, does!  He can even do that little Hammer-dance.

Another problem was that unlike Nemo, there are numerous times in the movie where the illusion that this is taking place under the sea is broken.  The animation just doesn't keep it up except for adding a few bubbles every now and then.

The actor's all do an OK job.  I like and actually love pretty much everybody who did a voice in this movie (except Renee Zellweger who I hate for some reason) , but adding familiar voices to weak characters just won't work no matter what kind of talent you round up.  

All in all kids will and did like Shark Tale.  That's no big surprise.  Kids like everything.  You make a feature length kids movie and you will have an audience no matter how good or bad the film is.  So if you have a kid who insists on renting Shark Tale go ahead and watch it with them.  It's got a few good jokes and you can play a drinking game as you spot all the references to other movies.  (P.S. You probably shouldn't play the drinking game while the kid is there.)