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Shark Tale

Starring Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger and Angelina Jolie
Screenplay by Rob Letterman
Directed by Letterman, Vicky Jenson and Bibo Bergeron

IN SHORT: A kidlet friendly mob tale? Gehddoudaheah. Better yet, don't. [Rated PG for some mild language and crude humor. 90 minutes]

Based more on the 1970s comedy Car Wash than any film school friendly mob movie, this year's Shark Tale must be good eatin' because it was the third film screened in one day by your idiot critic, and one seen less than an hour after such a debilitating piece of cinematic garbage that we are affording ourselves the luxury of pretending we didn't see it (so we don't have to write it up). That being said, even carrying two shoulders dripping with exhaustion into a big screen theater jammed with families for the sneak, we still got a pair of belly laughs and more than enough chuckles to take the pain away.

That, friends, is why we pay attention to the audience. Shark Tale had the kidlets cackling at stuff we don't begin to understand. It also has more than enough gags that will fly over the heads of the kids, on an intellectual level, even as the selfsame kidlets laugh at jokes built into the animation design. We're going to do our best to avoid giving away the biggest of those jokes as we work through the description. OK, deep breath now and . . . dive!

Starting at the aforementioned tributary location, a Whale Wash, we meet Oscar (Will Smith), a just-this-side-of-ne'er-do-well who would rather dream big than squeegee the clientele. Oscar's boss, Sykes (Martin Scorsese), is a puffer fish fast loosing patience for his sloppy work. An angelfish named Angie (Renee Zellweger) pines for our eventual hero -- who will take credit for slaying a killer shark called Frankie (Michael Imperioli), son of whatever passes for a fish godfather, Don Lino (Robert De Niro). Don Lino's other son, Lennie (Jack Black), is already an embarrassment to the family, for reasons which will mean one thing to kids and quite another to adults. As Oscar reaps the benefits of his labor, all guided by his new "manager" Sykes, his gills are thrilled, so to speak, by the lovely Lola (Angelina Jolie). That doesn't please Angie at all. What we haven't mentioned is that Oscar's reaping involves a deal with the devil or, in this case, the embarrassing scion of an enemy tribe. That's all news to ace reporter Katie Current (Katie Couric), who's not the ace all would think her to be.

That's also all the story material we're going to reveal. We're not going to reveal The Event which brings Oscar into league with the Enemy. The How and Who are the hinges upon which this entire story hangs. The How is also a good visual gag, so let yourself be surprised. Shark Tale is thin on story -- you can figure out the important turns the tale will take from what we've already written -- but it is heavy enough to float on its jokes. So let it do so.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Shark Tale, he would have paid . . .


With guest voices including Peter Falk, Vincent Pastore of the Sopranos and Doug E Doug and Ziggy Marley (as Ernie and Bernie, Rastafari-looking Jellyfish enforcers) there's enough good stuff in Shark Tale for us to recommend you lugging any resident kidlets to the local big screen. Those without may want to wait for rental, if for nothing else than to listen to De Niro run rings around his earlier mob characters.

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