June 2020 is the 45th anniversary of the release of Jaws and we here at FinalBoss believe it is without a doubt the best shark-based movie ever made. There are other amazing films that have sharks in them, such as Finding Nemo, but I’m here today to tell you that you’re all forgetting about the dark horse of shark-related films, Shark Tale.
Shark Tale is an underrated, forgotten gem of an animated feature film, true story. Don’t be fooled by the 36% on Rotten Tomatoes or the 6/10 on IMDB, this film is enjoyable, has great messages that are still relevant today and is laugh out loud hilarious. It did well in the box office, raking in $367,275,019 and at the time was DreamWorks Animation’s second highest-grossing opening weekend, behind Shrek 2.This film seems to be all but forgotten though, so I’m going to remind you why it’s jawsome.
What is it about?
Oscar (voiced by Will Smith) is a fish that works at the Whale Wash in the Southside Reef. He owes a lot of money to his boss, the pufferfish Sykes, who has two jellyfish enforcers named Ernie and Bernie. Oscar has no idea how to pay back Sykes until his best friend, Angie, gives him her grandmother’s pearl to pawn, so he can pay off his debts. He is told to meet Sykes at the seahorse racing track with the money, but filled with visions of becoming a millionaire and proving he is not a nobody, he bets every single clam on the race seahorse, Lucky Day. Lucky day doesn’t win, so Sykes has Oscar chained up in the middle of nowhere, where he is easy prey for Lenny the shark. Or not so easy, as it turns out. If you want to know anything more from there, then you’re just gonna have to watch the film…
What makes this film great?
Firstly, this film is hilarious. Oscar’s witless antics, Lenny’s uncharacteristic behaviour as the son of Don Lino (leader of organised crime in the area, run mostly by sharks) and the fantastic array of supporting characters makes me chuckle every time. The genius of having two Jamaican jellyfish, with their tentacles as dreadlocks and their bell-shaped heads as Rastacaps or the gang of aggressive shrimps (say hello, to my little friends!) cannot really be put into words, it just works.
The cast of this film is fantastic. Until last year, Oscar was Will Smith’s only animated voiceover credit (Spies in Disguise was his second) and, to date, this is the only voice acting that Martin Scorsese (Sykes) has ever done. Jack Black is perfect for the moral, self-questioning shark, Lenny. His father, the mob boss Don Lino is voiced by Robert De Niro and Oscar’s competing love interests, Angie and Lola are played by Renée Zellweger and Angelina Jolie respectively.
The soundtrack for this film is also worth noting. It embodied the urban music scene of the early 2000’s, with R&B and hip-hop influence throughout, as well as modern takes on older songs. Artists such as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, JoJo (Remember her?), The Pussycat Dolls and D12. For you chicks that don’t even know the name D12, that’s Eminem’s rap group, and they appear throughout this film’s soundtrack. Ziggy Marley, the son of Bob Marley, covers his father’s song “Three Little Birds” with Sean Paul. Of course, Will Smith doesn’t miss out on all the action, as he features in Mary J. Blige’s cover of “Got to Be Real” for the film.
Why is Shark Tale a “hidden” gem?
I’m sure for some of you, Shark Tale has never been a film that was forgotten about but many people think they kind of remember the film, it not having left much impression on them at all. I think that the cause of this is partly the fact that 2004, which was the year that Shark Tale was released, was a long time ago now and the film remains in the camp of “films that I watched when I was younger but I’m too old for kids films apart from Disney now”.
Another very strong factor is the quality of some of the other animated releases at the time, which are held by many with deep nostalgia. The Incredibles, Shrek 2, The Polar Express and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (yes, it’s a classic and I will fight you if you disagree) were all released in the same year. Madagascar was released the year after and Finding Nemo was made at the same time as Shark Tale, the two studios being open with each other to avoid too much overlap and Nemo was released the year before. Many people believe that Finding Nemo is the definitive animated underwater film and, despite my love for Shark Tale, I agree with them. However, just because a film isn’t as well animated or doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of Finding Nemo, it doesn’t mean it isn’t very good in its own right.
Have I convinced you to sea it again?
Well, I hope my rambling has gone some way to convince you to give this gem another watch. Are you not in the mood for the masterpiece, Jaws? Have you already watched Finding Nemo four times this month on Disney Plus? Still fancy a fabulous, fishy frolic all the same? Then give Shark Tale a watch. I promise you that you (probably, hopefully) will not regret it.
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