A blind goldfish in a bowl possesses a better sense of direction than DreamWorks' animated fish flick Shark Tale. Despite the hip vocal stylings of stars including Will Smith and Robert De Niro, it's a story that struggles to keep afloat between limp gags and spongy characters. It's occasionally amusing and the visuals are adequately glossy, but in the wake of the brilliantly inventive Finding Nemo, this effort simply does not wash.
Oscar (Smith) fancies himself a street-wise fish, but swims into a world of trouble when he witnesses a shark killing and claims the deed as his own. At first he's elevated to hero status on The Reef, and the fame and fortune he's always longed for drops into his lap - along with fishy femme fatale Lola (Angelina Jolie).
"UNFATHOMABLE DEPTHS OF INANITY"
But Oscar finds himself in deep water when it transpires that the dead shark was the son of mob kingpin Don Lino (De Niro). Only Lino's remaining son, Lenny (Jack Black) - a closet vegetarian, and Oscar's gal pal Angie (Renée Zellweger) can help save him from an eternity spent sleeping with the fishes.
After a muddled start, the plot spirals into unfathomable depths of inanity, and quite often it's just dull. We're presented with watered-down caricatures spouting deadweight dialogue - the portrayal of sharks as Italian Mafiosi is especially lazy, with the quota of "bada bings" and "fuhgedaboudits" enough to make James Caan blush.
De Niro probably phoned in his performance, although Martin Scorsese provides much-needed relief with his rib-tickling turn as a babbling puffer fish. At the centre of it all, Smith fails to engage as a wisecracking hustler with nothing but a cheeky grin to endear him to viewers. Essentially, the anchor doesn't go deep enough and Shark Tale is left to flounder.