MOVIE REVIEW Shark Tale: The new addition of the Animation War

The pleasantly funny and likeable Shark Tale is the latest entry in the computer animation wave of the past 10 years. Starting in 1995 with Toy Story, computer-generated PG comedies have been rolled out about once a year to overwhelming critical praise and box office success.

Shark Tale, a product of Shrek creators Dreamworks and PDI, will be no different when it’s unveiled on Oct. 1 in almost every movie theater in the country. The animated comedies give families a rare opportunity to willingly see a movie together. Getting kids and their parents excited for the same movie is a rare feat, and Shark Tale follows in the footsteps of its CGI predecessors in pulling that off.

Many of the highest grossing films of our time have been animated works from dueling powerhouses Pixar and Dreamworks/PDI. Pixar started it off with Toy Story, and has held strong with huge hits like Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. Dreamworks countered with the Shrek films and now Shark Tale.

The battle between Pixar and Dreamworks could be called an animation war, but if it is, it’s a war that both sides are winning. Pixar struck gold with Monsters, Inc. and Nemo, making over half a billion dollars apiece. Dreamworks has made well over a billion dollars off the two Shrek films, and Shark Tale is a surefire hit as well.

Shark Tale stars Jack Black, Will Smith, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Robert DeNiro, and Martin Scorsese, all lending their voices to various creatures in an underwater city. Smith plays Oscar, a lowly employee at a whale-washing station who dreams of high society and fame. Black voices a wimpy but gentle shark named Lenny, son of the godfather of the shark mafia (DeNiro).

Even though his dad wants him to take over the family business, Lenny would rather stay away from the violence and intimidation expected of sharks in this city. He and Oscar come up with a plan that would allow Lenny to escape his father’s pressure while also making Oscar a celebrity in the fish world.

The plot is really meaningless, because it’s only there to link together the jokes and pop culture references scattered throughout the film. Zellweger and Jolie play Smith’s romantic interests, while Scorsese provides a lot of laughs voicing a neurotic, fast-talking blowfish.

Just like Shrek, Nemo and most of the other CGI comedies, Shark Tale is aimed at both kids and parents, and it succeeds in reaching both groups. There are more than enough laughs to satisfy audiences of all ages, and most of the jokes are genuinely funny. Although Shark Tale lacks the real heartfelt story of Finding Nemo or the flat-out brilliance of Shrek, it is extremely enjoyable and entertaining, and most viewers will leave the theater happy and content.

Look for Shark Tale to make a couple hundred million dollars in the next few weeks alone, and to rack up the rave reviews that have become common for these kinds of films. In November, Pixar will release its first film since Finding Nemo, the dysfunctional superhero comedy The Incredibles. Dreamworks has already put together a trailer for its followup to Shark Tale, Madagascar, which won’t come out for almost a year. With a near-guarantee of box office and critical success, Pixar and Dreamworks show no signs of slowing down production. It’s only a matter of time until the other studios jump in the market as well, and CGI comedies turn from high profile, yearly hits into standard monthly releases.

Shawn Wines can be contacted at