Making the Grades
What entices big names like Robert De Niro, Jack Black, Renee Zellweger and Will Smith to lend their voices to cartoon characters?
Maybe it's the lack of make-up sessions or costume fittings? The slim chance of personal injury? Or the ability to focus entirely on the lines?
Whatever the reason, Shark Tale is full of great voices. It is also loaded with stereotypical characters.
Oscar (Will Smith) is a colorful, hip hopping fish residing at the bottom of the reef. He works at the whale wash (when he manages to show up), but spends most of his time longingly eyeing the penthouse at the top of the coral. Convinced his life won't be any good until he's up there, he desperately wants to make a name for himself.
Luckily---or not---that chance comes one afternoon when his uptight, working class boss (Martin Scorsese) sends two dreadlocked henchmen (Doug E. Doug, Ziggy Marley) out to rough up the money-owing employee. Through an unlikely series of events and one whopper of a lie, Oscar is soon touted as the "Sharkslayer".
Barely flipping a fin at his long-time friend Angie (Renee Zellweger), Oscar swims up the food chain to bask in the attention of famous fish like reporter Katie Current (Katie Couric) and the seductive Lola (Angelina Jolie).
But there's a price to be paid for fame.
Up in the open waters, mob boss Don Lino (Robert De Niro), is displeased with the boisterous upstart who's making waves in the underwater world. (Several Italian-American groups have protested this characterization of Italians as mob members.)
Don Lino is also worried about his missing boys. Unbeknownst to him, his youngest son Lenny (Jack Black) is hiding down in the reef, afraid of "coming out" about his vegetarian tendencies.
What Shrek did to fairytales, this film does to the worlds of gangsters, using the menacing music of Jaws and spoofing movies like the Godfather, the Untouchables, and Some Like It Hot. It also parodies well-known brand name products with knockoffs like Coral Cola and GUP clothes.
Given the lively music and a whole school of characters, this film likely won't flounder with young audience members. However, the script nets parents a chance to talk about topics like the price of popularity, the dangers of lying and the lack of consequences faced by a trio of troublesome graffiti-spraying teens who hang out in the neighborhood. Along with the typecast ethnic groups, families and their older teens might also want to broach the importance of self-worth and the depiction of the mafia.
However, a scene of "eel-lectrocution", the killing of a shark and a shrimp snack for sharks, may give parents a reason to reel in the line before letting their littlest guppies fall hook, line and sinker for this whale of a tale.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Shark Tale.
Lenny is worried about telling his father he is a vegetarian. What other topics might be difficult to discuss with your family? Is there a difference between accepting a person and agreeing with what he or she does?
How are the teenage fish portrayed in this film? Are there any consequences for their actions? While graffiti may not cause any physical harm, what might be a result of opening a fire hydrant?
Who were Oscar’s real pals in this story? What did he learn about the connection between fame and friendship?