Shark Tale DVD Review

For as much as these movies cost to make, you would think companies would at least try and not knock-off the competition. DreamWorks went up against Pixar with "Antz," and now again with "Shark Tale." Aside from the "Shrek" series, their computer-animated films seems to be geared more towards adults, just with plots for the kids. It ends up being a confusing mish-mash that doesn't come together in the least.

Oscar (voiced by Will Smith) works a local whale wash until he one day becomes a celebrity. After taking credit for killing a shark that he really did not kill, he becomes a hero, taking all the fame and credit. His problems really take off when he learns the shark he killed is the mob bosses son. Not only must he now keep his secret, but try and avoid being killed by a large group of sharks.

The opening of "Shark Tale" is nothing short of hilarious. There are countless numerous touches (the Sushi Bar is priceless), a great obligatory "Jaws" parody, and it immediately draws you into its world. Unfortunately, it settles on a none-too-interesting plot that tries to parody numerous mob films.

Of course the movie is geared for the younger set; you just have to question what 8-year old is going to get a "Godfather" reference, "Jerry Maguire," or even a brief "Benny Hill" one. Those are great to put smirks on adult's faces, but the kids can't possibly comprehend why it is their parents are smiling. The plot itself, one of the few things the kids could get, is bare bones surface level type stuff. It seems the creators are more intent on showing the world they've created or making a parody than working with anything type of a story.

They have populated that world with some great characters, led by the always fun and energetic Will Smith. He does great alongside Jack Black (playing a vegetarian shark which seems like an awfully familiar plot point) and Renee Zellweger. The rest of the cast is all top-notch talent, including Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Ziggy Marley. Most of them are one-shot characters, falling in line with a problem most animated films run into, being more entertaining than the leads.

The film does have a fantastic look, arguably better than the competition from Pixar. The fish aren't built around being realistic, but human. The way they move (especially facial expressions) is jaw dropping, just centered on a shallow, albeit imaginative movie.

DreamWorks is filled with talented people who come up with some great ideas. "Antz" failed for the same reasons "Shark Tale" does. It just doesn't know whom it's trying to entertain. Something like "Toy Story" can walk that fine line between children and adult, keeping them both captivated the entire time. That's even something "Shrek" did well. Maybe they should just stick with their moneymaker. (** out of *****)

Though it may not be a movie you'll be putting in to actually watch all the way through, you're bound to pop this one for it's miraculous transfer. This is reference quality piece, of course taken right off the computer onto the disc. It has some very minor aliasing trouble early on when trying to pack in tons of detail into a lower resolution, but that's really it. Even with bright reds and blues, this sharp transfer doesn't show a single compression block. There's not a moment to be had where this picture doesn't make you think it's some sort of super-DVD. Just incredible. (*****)

Maybe it looks so good because there isn't much to listen to. Granted there's not very much action to be had (come to think of it, really only one scene), it should be obvious there is plenty of room for immersion. There's no moving water that surrounds the viewer, no bubbles, and zero movement. Everything stays squarely in the front speakers. You'll hear a few brief moments of separation and then there's nothing for another half-hour. To call it disappointing would be understating the facts since there is so much potential here. (**)

The same goes for the extras, offering nothing of value or anything related to the making of the film, instead focusing on selling you a movie you just bought. The only real extra is a commentary from the three directors, Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, and Rob Letterman. They take you through the process and point out references you may have missed.

"Club Oscar" starts off the special features set. This is a mildly amusing feature in which the cast (the animated kind) dance to a variety of music featured in the film including "You Can't Touch This." The kids can move on to learn the moves performed by the fish with a few instructional videos under "Get Your Groove On." Moving forward takes you to the rather pointless kids section of the disc. Your children can access a variety of brief comedic scenes (which they could easily do with the chapter stops), play the usual derivative (and simple) DVD games that couldn't possibly hole their attention, and play around with some DVD-ROM features.

Once you finally think you've found something good under the actual special features menu, you become even more frustrated. "Rough Waters" is a brief collection of animated goofs that are included on all CG-animated films. This is short, barely going over the minute mark. "Star Fish" looks at the actors involved with some in the studio footage. All they do is discuss their characters and the plot to the movie you just watched. If you make it to the end, that's a little over 11-minutes of your life gone by. "Music of Shark Tale" is exactly what it says it is (with quickie interviews from the artists), plus a blatant commercial for the soundtrack.

"Fishified World" looks at how the ideas for the film came about and how they turned into something that made sense for fish. The producers, animators, and actors all get their piece in this short 6-minute feature. "Gigi the Whale" is a seemingly useless minute and a half feature that has Robert De Niro talking in studio on a break; they just animated him as the shark he plays. "Tour the Reef" is a painful experience, moving back and forth between countless menu options to view various production sketches and galleries. Everything ends with various notes and trailers. (**)

At least for the time being, it looks like the next round between the two big animation juggernauts is going to be different. Pixar is putting out "Cars" while DreamWorks comes in with a funny looking animal movie "Madagascar." Meanwhile, Fox is creeping into the picture with a sequel to "Ice Age." So much for traditional animation.

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