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Shark Tale


SDG
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In my review of Shrek 2 I wrote that "If Pixars Toy Story movies connect with the child in all of us, DreamWorks' Shrek pictures are aimed squarely at our inner adolescent."

Suddenly I'm realizing that that's the key to the whole Pixar/DreamWorks thing. With Shark Tale, DreamWorks now has a body of work that roughly parallels the Pixar oeuvre, with the exception of Monsters, Inc. The difference is that the two franchises are in a different register.

Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are about childhood playthings; Shrek and Shrek 2 are about childhood fairy tales. A Bug's Life and Antz are both about misfit ants, and Finding Nemo and Shark Tale are both fish stories with sharks that don't eat fish (though Shark Tale has only one such shark).

In spite of the seeming parallel, though, the DreamWorks films are all much more like one another than they are like their Pixar counterparts. They're cruder and more risque, more satiric and referential, and certainly less emotionally resonant. With the possible exception of A Bug's Life, any film in the Pixar oeuvre is easily superior to any film in the DreamWorks lineup.

Now it looks like the critics are lining up to paste Shark Tale, which surprises me because I found it more enjoyable than either of the Shrek movies, or Antz for that matter. Needless to say, it's no Finding Nemo (not that it's trying to be). But I think it's the most visually appealing and energetically entertaining of DreamWork's CGI films.

To me, the Shrek movies seem a little... thin and anemic, somehow. Shark Tale has a more energetic style that I found more engaging. It's also the wackiest DreamWorks film to date; in contrast to the way the Shrek films begin with a fairy-tale world and premise and then festoon it with modern sensibilities, jokes, and other anachronisms, Shark Tale isn't an anthropomorphic fish story, it's a thinly fishified people story.

A familiar story, certainly, though Finding Nemo and Shrek were both structured in a very simple, familiar way as well; what makes it entertaining is how it's done, and I thought it was done well in Shark Tale.

Talent-wise, Eddie Murphy was in top form in the Shrek films, as is Will Smith here; but I didn't think Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz brought anything really special to the party, and no one else in the Shrek supporting cast was as entertaining to me as De Niro and Scorsese here.

I thought they made a lot of smart storytelling choices. For example, there's a racetrack lost-money subplot that could have been dragged out in a way that would have been really tiresome, but they wisely didn't do that.

I also felt that this movie had more heart than previous DreamWorks efforts, though as with the Shrek movies the emotions and morals are rather trite and canned. Still, it hits such themes as not needing riches to be someone, the foolishness of get-rich-quick schemes and gambling, telling the truth, being true to one's real friends and not getting caught up with false friends, and taking pride in oneself and one's family.

There are also some problematic elements. As per DreamWorks usual, it's not really for kids, though it's marketed and sold that way. Its hip-hop milieu, and Angelina Jolie's bad-girl picean temptress (think of sultry Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit), are certainly inappropriate for my kids, and I won't be bringing them.

There's some crude humor, and while it avoids Shrek 2-style cross-dressing jokes, themes relating to gender issues are more subtlely revisited in a subplot involving a sissy shark with alternative preferences who at one point "dresses" like a dophin as a disguise, to his macho father's chagrin. That said, I think this is the kind of thing that grownups notice, but doesn't affect kids.

So I don't know, maybe I'm a bonehead, but I liked it, and I'm sticking to my guns in my review.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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The Catholic News Service posts their review... early as usual.

Wow, SDG, I'm surprised. I skipped the screening last night because the previews had completely turned me off to the whole project.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Add me to the list of the charitable thumbs up.

Not a great film. Not a deep film. Not a film that connects on any kind of an emotional level. But it is entertaining. Many of the jokes and sight gags will sail over the heads of the younger members of the audience (and they may be overly frightened in one or two scenes dealing with shark activity) but all in all, the screening audience enjoyed the ride and I found myself going right along with them.

Michael Elliott

Movie Parables

http://www.christiancritic.com

ccritic@bellsouth.net

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Caught it this afternoon. Maybe it's partly cuz I'm just not impressed by the whole hippity-hop thing, but the movie left me cold. I may be in a minority, though ...

- - -

'Shark Tale' Crests at Box Office

The hip-hop underwater animated flick "Shark Tale" opened this weekend as the highest October box office draw in history, studio executives said on Sunday. The DreamWorks Animation film raked in a record $49.1 million in its first weekend, surpassing the record set by Dimension Films' "Scary Movie 3," which reaped $48 million in its October 2003 opening weekend. . . . "It's the second biggest opening ever for DreamWorks, surpassing the first weekend of Shrek by $7 million," Tharp said.

Reuters, October 3

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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There are also some problematic elements. As per DreamWorks usual, it's not really for kids, though it's marketed and sold that way. Its hip-hop milieu...are certainly inappropriate for my kids, and I won't be bringing them.

Care to explain that "hip-hop milieu" statement? Are you insinuating that a depiction of hip-hop culture/speech/etc. is unsuitable for children? Sounds racist and stereotypical to me!

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There are also some problematic elements. As per DreamWorks usual, it's not really for kids, though it's marketed and sold that way. Its hip-hop milieu...are certainly inappropriate for my kids, and I won't be bringing them.
Care to explain that "hip-hop milieu" statement? Are you insinuating that a depiction of hip-hop culture/speech/etc. is unsuitable for children? Sounds racist and stereotypical to me!

I'm sure you meant "sounds" in a purely phenomenological sense, but let's be careful waving around words like "racist." You'll poke an eye out. smile.gif

Notice that there are two separate sentences, there: [1] It's not really for kids; [2] The hip-hop milieu is one element that is certainly inappropriate for MY kids.

I didn't say, nor do I believe, that the hip-hop milieu is necessarily inappropriate for ALL kids.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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There are also some problematic elements. As per DreamWorks usual, it's not really for kids, though it's marketed and sold that way. Its hip-hop milieu...are certainly inappropriate for my kids, and I won't be bringing them.
Care to explain that "hip-hop milieu" statement? Are you insinuating that a depiction of hip-hop culture/speech/etc. is unsuitable for children? Sounds racist and stereotypical to me!

I'm sure you meant "sounds" in a purely phenomenological sense, but let's be careful waving around words like "racist." You'll poke an eye out. smile.gif

Notice that there are two separate sentences, there: [1] It's not really for kids; [2] The hip-hop milieu is one element that is certainly inappropriate for MY kids.

I didn't say, nor do I believe, that the hip-hop milieu is necessarily inappropriate for ALL kids.

You still never explained what you meant. Reading that statement says to me that you feel that hip-hop culture/music/style/etc. is something that you're trying to shield and protect your children against. You're making the assumption that Will Smith's fish character is swimming around calling people "bitches" and "hoes" and the like.

Is that what you feel hip-hop culture represents? How could I not view that as a racist statement in light of the fact that hip-hop is an African-American based culture?

Once again, please clarify.

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Do you have any idea of the "guilty until proven innocent" tone to your posts?

Out of a single piece of data, the fact that I said that the film's hip-hop milieu was inappropriate for my kids, you have concluded that this must have something to do with hip-hop's African-American roots, even that I must be motivated by fears of dialogue about "bitches and hoes," which I never mentioned.

And then you have the nerve to accuse ME of "making assumptions"!

Have you forgotten that I SAW THIS MOVIE, and that I know what kind of dialogue is in it? Have you forgotten that I LIKED the movie, in spite of the fact that most of the critical establishment lined up to pan it?

You apparently don't know the first thing about me, yet you feel comfortable throwing accusations around. You don't know where I live, where I go to church, who my friends are, anything. You might feel a little silly accusing me of racism if you did.

You are mistaken in saying that I never explained what I meant. I answered the question you asked. You asked me whether I was insinuating that hip-hop was inappropriate for children. I answered that I wasn't. I didn't specify why the soundtrack in this film is inappropriate for my own children because you hadn't asked. Maybe you have now, but you're shooting first and asking questions later. Please stop. Give me some respect, try not to make uncharitable assumptions, and I'll be happy to answer your questions.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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FWIW, I also fail to see how a criticism of hip-hop culture is automatically "racist" just because it is "based" in the African-American subculture. (Footnote: I must also ask if Christina Aguilera is considered African-American in any way, since she is touted as an example of one of the "hip-hop" elements that helped this film sell.)

One of the things I get a kick out of in African-American films these days is the way Eddie Murphy and others who used to represent brash African-American youth a few decades ago are now playing father types who look down their noses at the hip-hop culture that their children are into. Surely THOSE characters aren't "racist"!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hmmm, based on Friday's figures, it looks like Shark Tale will be the first film to be #1 at the box office for three weeks in a row since The Passion of the Christ ...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Mark Steyn chips in his two bits...

Okay, that's enough plot, where's the story? Most of the above is an excuse for a ton of Godfather gags -- "He sleeps with the fishes", etc -- plus a joke about sharks hurtling through the deep humming the theme from Jaws. The Godfather and Jaws are both 30 years old, which is older than some of the parents going to see this movie, never mind the kids. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Dreamworks animation honcho, is 53. Back in 1958, when he was an eight-year old tyke, would he have appreciated a children's animated feature full of in-joke references to All Quiet On The Western Front and Hollywood Revue Of 1929? In Shrek 2, I loved Donkey's gag about the tree that looks like Shirley Bassey and I laughed uproariously at it, at least until the missus flashed me one of her looks and I realized nobody else in the theatre seemed to find it funny. The point is that making a kids' movie that's also funny for grown-ups is a very fine line, and Shark Tale has fallen way over the wrong side of it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 month later...

Is This Shark Gay? Kiddie Cartoons and the Culture Wars

Does 'Shark Tale' have a pro-gay message? Does 'The Incredibles' mock schools where everyone's 'special'? Should anyone care?

Frederica Mathewes-Green, Beliefnet.com, December 10

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Thanks Peter for the link. The article raises some good points.

I must admit there were a couple of scenes where I thought to myself as I watched it "Are they trying to make Lenny out to be gay?" However, I think it's more of a subtle nod to the adults than an attempt to spread a pro-gay message. Actually, I remember wondering at the time if gay activists might be offended at using classic stereotypes just to get a laugh. That having been said, I certainly wouldn't blast the film for being "pro-gay".

On a related note, have any of you who have kids ever read the children's book Tootle?

That's one I've always wondered about. In this day and age, if they made an animated feature of it, I have a feeling it would be reconstructed to have Tootle heroically breaking free from the tracks in the end to the chagrin of those who want to force him to conform.

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