Compared to Shrek, Shark Tale is a minnow. The humour is predictable, the characters underdeveloped and the story less exciting than Oliver & Co.

Although intended as a CGI animated pastiche of Mafia movies, it turns out to be one of those Wayans Brothers' ghetto spoofs, with a jive-talkin' Doug E Doug-U-Like hero (Doug E shows up in the sound booth, voicing a jelly fish, with Bob Marley's son Ziggy) who is seduced by fame and a sexy golddigger by the name of Lola (Angelina Jolie), while Undertown is threatened by Osama-style great whites.

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Beneath the ocean - beneath THIS ocean - life is much the same as it is on Chicago's South Side, except the pawnbroker is called The Prawn Shop and the carwash is The Whale Wash. There are billboards and skyscrapers and massive TV screens on the sides of buildings. Katie Couric, veteran co-anchor of NBC's morning news show, voices her alter ego Katie Current, while swimming around with a microphone in her fin, accompanied by camerafish.

Oscar (Will Smith), the dude with the lip, is a humble tongue scrubber at The Whale Wash, who talks himself up into being "a somebody." Only the loyal secretary in the office, Angie (Renee Zellweger), believes in him, not that he notices, because she's a friend, like a homie.

The crime family that terrorises Undertown is ruled by Don Lino (Robert De Niro) in the traditional manner. He has two sons, one of whom is gay. Well, they don't say he's gay, but he hates killing things, is vegetarian and probably dresses in sea moss when Daddy Don's not looking. His name is Lenny (Jack Black) and he becomes Oscar's friend after his brother Frankie (Michael Imperioli) is killed in a freak accident, resulting in Oscar being hailed as a sharkslayer, which he goes along with, revelling in the stardom.

The character of Lenny has been borrowed from Finding Nemo's sharks-in-therapy and Oscar is Smith doing his MiB, with oodles of improv. The girlie fishes, Angie and Lola, don't make as lasting an impression as the hapless Dore from Nemo. In fact, comparisons between these underwater animations are unfair; Shark Tale doesn't come close.

Shrek's well-deserved success was based on a dazzlingly witty script, imaginative characters and sensational CGI. Shark Tale is being marketed as "from the creators of Shrek." They share a director (Vicky Jenson), a producer (Bill Dameaschke) and a studio (DreamWorks), but that's all.

The creative spark lights no fires in this crib. Perhaps, the thought of Smith doing his Doug E impression, De Niro as His Donness, Zellweger and Jolie flashing fins over Will and the Doug/Marley double act was considered such a pitchable product, why bother with a storyline that has live bait on its hook.

Reviewed on: 16 Oct 2004
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A gay shark and a fast talkin' tongue scrubber at the whale wash make waves in animated Undertown.
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Director: Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron, Rob Letterman

Writer: Michael J Wilson, Rob Letterman, Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

Starring: voices of Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Doug E Doug, Ziggy Marley, Peter Falk, Katie Couric

Year: 2004

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Finding Nemo
The Reef