Volume 16, Issue 4: Ex Imagibus
Brendan O'Donnell and Nate Wilson
According to the previews, which featured every funny part of this particular cartoon, this is ostensibly a movie about sharks and fish dueling it out in Dreamwork SKG's hip-hop response to Pixar/Disney's Finding Nemo. From the preview we learn that Shark Tale's little yellow protagonist looks and acts just like Will Smith, who lends his voice, some dance moves, and his likeness to Oscar, a fish with aspirations to a rap contract with a major label. We also learn from the preview that Robert De Niro, Martin Scorcese,
Angelina Jolie, and the rest of the extra-value cast have all been transmogrified into computer-animated sharks and fish, which is the funniest thing about the movie.
And if you thought the preview was funny, then treasure that little spark of joy in your heart and watch something else. Because, from the preview, you may also remember that SKG stands for Spielberg/Katzenberg/Geffen, which means that comedy will
play second banana to the tolerance gospel these three short-order cooks keep slopping all over the movie-going public. See, the head shark's son, Lenny, is a mild-mannered vegetarian, which nature would tell us makes for a lousy predator. But, on planet
Dreamworks, that just makes for a "different" shark, one whose diet and propensity for dressing up as a dolphin is something to be embraced and celebrated.
And so the ostensible moral of the inevitable father-son hug-fest at the end is that we ought to accept people who are different from us. But everyone who doesn't live under a rock deals with different people every day. Dreamworks doesn't care about dealing
with different people. Their scarf-wearing shark is a tootsie, just like David Geffen.
Shark Tale is as entertaining and subtle as a knee in the groin.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
This movie is also computer-animated, but instead of 3-D models of Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, they spent the extra ten million to get the real things. By some accounts, this flick was an attempt to get another sequel-franchise going, a la
Indiana Jones. The box-office dictated otherwise, so this is probably it for the series. Is it worth watching?
Well, yes, it is worth watching, in the sense of "looking at it." It manages some gorgeous and impressive moments. The sepia-retro gimmick is beautifully rendered, especially in the city scenes. The attention not paid the story and characters was directed
instead at the digital details, like the raindrops running along a car window, or the weathered-metal look on the bad-guy robots that stomp New York City. There's also a neat ray gun, some flying aircraft carriers, and a fighter plane that turns into a submarine.
But you can get attention to detail and gee-whizzery from a TV commercial. Frequently, you can also get more out of the story, too.
Sky Captain is, at heart, a B-grade sci-fi flick. After you've gotten used to the special effects, which, depending on how cynical
you are about special effects, may take up to ten minutes, all that's left is the winsome Joe Sullivan whisking dizzy-dame Polly Perkins through the Indiana Jones plotline, which wasn't memorable enough to include in this review.
Pixar has more built-in fan base than any other studio currently cranking out movies. After
Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Finding
Nemo, virtually all children are guaranteed to watch
The Incredibles, and most of them will be bringing parents with them. This film has
more adult flavor than Pixar's previous stuff, but still aims to be kid friendly. Much of it is quite hilarious, but there are still elements that don't seem to belong in this type of film.
The story, as most know, centers on a family of "supers," living undercover in a retro world tired of superheroes. Predictable family conflict resolves itself in the modern way one would expect, but manages to be forgiveable. Bad guys actually die in
various explosions, and good guys are also mortalwe encounter a skeleton belonging to one of them, and references to the murders of others. Our male protagonist yearns for the days of heroism and, when he is fired from his insurance job, becomes vulnerable to
the fraudulent enticement of a villain that he believes to represent a top secret government organization.
Much of the humor will be lost on kids, but they will laugh anyway, and parents (or grandparents) will see some amusing satire of the world and entertainment they grew up with. Surpassing the two
Toy Story films doesn't seem possible, so pointing out this
film's failure to do so shouldn't mean much. It is worth watching if only for the fact that it is designed for children and is blatantly anti-egalitarian, though it can't completely shake the vestiges of the equality-obsessed culture that surrounds us.
Look for tyranny and egalitarianism packaged in the villains as well as consistent parody of our culture's general resentment of superiority. Commentary of this nature is a surprise in anything mildly connected to Disney, and in this case it doesn't even appear
to have been an accident.
Though Steven Spielberg's last few movies have been dark missives on the loneliness of modern man, he is at heart a cloying sentimentalist, and so he dutifully trots the savior Innocence onscreen to bring people together. In
The Terminal, Innocence is the hirsute Tom Hanks, playing Viktor, an English-language-mauling Eastern European. The camera swirls around his head when he gets stuck in the shopping mall-like JFK terminal, a
coup d'etat having erased the diplomatic viability of his passport. Rather than vomiting, as the cinematography suggests he might do, Viktor makes the best of it, befriending the airport denizens and bedding the stewardess/love-interest, whose sailoresque language and serial harlotries might soften with a little Innocence. After they chastely sleep together,
she resumes her cheap lifestyle, leaving him free to leave the airport when the passport regains its potency. A crowd of worshipful airport employees gathers to watch his departure in a scene at least as moving as the escalator that translates him to the exits. And so
the Christ figure leaves with the whore still single and the JFK mall still commercialistic. But he's still Innocent. Altogether as satisfying as an Oprah rerun with an added hour of commercials.