Shark Tale (2004)

(In theaters, October 2004) The diversification of CGI films outside the Pixar tent continues to stretch the envelope. Even if the parallels between Shark Tale and Finding Nemo are a bit fishy, there’s no denying that the end result is still good enough. It’s certainly not a classic (the pop-culture jokes will carbon-date it instantly to 2003-2004) and its emotional depth is nil, but it’s an innocuous comedy that’s simple enough for kids and pop-referential enough for young adults. You have to love Will Smith in order to like the movie, though; even as a fast-talking voice, he takes over the whole film and makes it fit in his usual shtick. Don’t expect much more than an extended sitcom episode in terms of plotting, but keep your eyes open for tons of visual references. I particularly loved the split-second “Before you die, you see… The Hook” movie ad gag. A soundtrack drenched in hip-hop further drives the point home that this is clearly aimed at the younger audiences. But not all is lost for older viewers; there’s a fair amount of visual experimentation going on, though special flashbacks and wild camera moves, extending the cinematographic language of animated films further into the possibilities offered by the medium. As for the rest, well, it’s (usually) fast, it’s effective and it’s funny. No need to go any further than that.

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