Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Dreamworks Shark Tale Review

It’s usually hard to pinpoint the exact moment that a film becomes bad. Two minutes in, that’s where ‘Shark Tale’ decided to give up. At two minutes in, any hope this film had was lost as sea. Even in those ‘ok’ opening minutes we had our first awkward pop culture reference as Frankie the shark sings the Jaws theme to his brother Lenny, describing it as “our theme song”. Before you can even comprehend how weird that line is you are presented with a full on assault of the senses. Things just keep happening, fish based things and they happen constantly. Fish pun after pun, intercut with terrible product placement and stunt casting…

To be honest, that last sentence is a fine review of this film, really sums it up. Continuing on however, you are given a brief tour of the fish based city and are introduced to our lead, Oscar, possibly the worst lead in an animated movie, certainly Will Smith’s worst performance. I honestly don’t know how you can write a character to be so unlikable; I don’t understand who he appeals to? He’s selfish, a liar and convinced that he’s better than everyone around him. I appreciate that for someone to have a character arc where they learn the value of life; they need to start as an arsehole. That being said he really doesn’t learn the error of his ways until quite a long way into the film. Even when he does, his motivation is partially out of fear for his own life.

It’s not fair to put all the blame on Will Smith though; most of the cast give terrible performances. With the weird exception of Martin Scorsese, everyone sounds confused and as if they’ve never acted before. I can’t really blame them for being confused by the film. It’s easy enough to follow but the very fact it exists is confusing.

The plot is relatively competent, although it’s a pretty standard boy who cried wolf plot, so screwing it up would be pretty difficult. It’s an ok narrative that is executed, not even poorly executed just executed, violently and appallingly. 99% of the jokes fall flat and a large amount of them are references. You get three references alone to Titanic, two of which are just references to the movie.

Not 5 seconds go without an awkward and very obvious pop cultural reference. The gaps in between the references are filled with awkward product placement. The parts that aren’t directly spoof, puns or selling products are equally terrible. Bearing in mind this is a kid’s film, aimed at children. We get a scene where Oscar is tied up and tortured using electricity and a scene where a shrimp begs for its life by claiming that his nephew has no limbs and needs him to survive, describing the boy as a “stump”. Why didn’t they just make a film about sharks? Lenny is a vegetarian shark trying to win his dad’s approval, that’s a decent enough concept and he’s a likable character. That would still give you plenty of room for lines about “sleeping with fishes” and other gangster based fish puns.

The animation is also deeply unappealing, not just visually but technically. At times it looks like a Machinima of a ps2 game, with characters awkwardly flailing around while delivering lines. Pixar were smart enough to realise that you don’t animate fish like humans, you animate them like fish. Seeing fish fist bump each other and do MC Hammer impressions is just weird and unsettling.

So much happens in this film that isn’t funny and very little of it makes sense. I found myself laughing, but only at myself for deciding to review it. Shark Tale is Dreamworks in the worst way possible. The film is full to the gills with stunt casting. It's ugly animation, unappealing characters and an unfunny script. The weirdest thing of all about the film is the confidence it has. Crazy Joe, Oscar’s Hermit crab friend interrupts the end credits to say “Have you seen what’s playing next door? Stinky!”. I can only assume the film playing next door is an extended directors cut of Shark Tale.

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