Will Smith Wants Everyone To Forget This Movie But It’s A Streaming Hit

Will Smith's critically panned animated film Shark Tale is a hit on Netflix.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

The animated feature Shark Tale is currently in the top 10 of the United States Netflix charts. The information comes from FlixPatrol, a data tracker that focuses on streaming platforms like Disney+, Amazon Prime, and HBO. The film, which sees Will Smith voice the lead character, is directed by Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron, and Rob Letterman.

Letterman worked on the script alongside Michael J. Wilson.

Shark Tale tells the story of a young fish named Oscar (Will Smith) who becomes a hero in his underwater community by telling a major lie. The film begins in Reef City, where Oscar works at a Whale Wash and dreams of becoming rich and famous. He owes money to his boss, Sykes, who uses the whale wash as a front for a shark mob.

Meanwhile, the sharks, led by Don Lino and his two sons, Frankie and Lenny, have a family crisis when the latter reveals that he does not want to be a killer. When a falling anchor kills Frankie, Oscar (Will Smith) takes the credit. Dubbed a hero by the community, he becomes known as a Sharkslayer, but things get complicated when Lenny asks him for refuge from his mobster family.

Will Smith’s hero agrees to help but soon realizes that he’s put himself and everyone he cares about in danger. As tensions rise between the sharks and the fish community, Oscar is forced to confess and face the consequences of his actions. He also learns the true meaning of friendship and courage in the face of danger.

Along with Will Smith, the voice cast is a star-studded one that includes Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, and Martin Scorsese. Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Peter Falk, and Katie Couric are also featured. 

Shark Tale debuted at the Venice Film Festival in September 2004 before its theatrical release a month later.

The Will Smith starrer earned $374.6 million at the global box office against its $75 million budget. Although it was the ninth-highest-grossing film of 2004, Shark Tale received mixed reviews from fans and critics. Some praised the film’s animation and voice acting, while others criticized its lack of originality and reliance on pop culture references.

Others maligned the film for its use of Italian-American stereotypes. Despite its lukewarm reception, the Will Smith-led project received a Best Animated Feature nomination at the 77th Academy Awards, ultimately losing to The IncrediblesShark Tale currently holds a 35 percent critics score and a 45 percent audience rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

The site’s general consensus describes the movie as derivative and filled with in-jokes. Still, Shark Tale has become a cultural touchstone with a range of merchandise and a video game. The film’s soundtrack, which features original songs and covers by artists such as Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott, also became a commercial success.

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While it may not have been universally praised, Shark Tale left a lasting impact on popular culture and remains a beloved film for many fans. When the movie was released in 2004, animation was considered a hard sell to anyone outside the kid market. A-list talent like Will Smith and Robert De Niro helped attract a broader demographic.

But over the years, animated features evolved beyond being crowd pleasers. Even before Shark Tale, films like The Lion King and Finding Nemo told stories that overshadowed the voice cast. While some may feel like good plots result in a loss of star power, movies are supposed to be about the story and not the people acting in or voicing them.

Fortunately, there has been a shift from this trend. While studios still sign big names like Will Smith and Dwayne Johnson to animated films, actors are cast to benefit the project instead of for their marketing appeal. Although Johnson is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, his involvement in Moana was downplayed during marketing.

Instead, the studio focused on the music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the new Disney Princess. Meanwhile, Will Smith recently ventured into the realm of animation when he voiced Lance Sterling in the 2019 movie Spies in Disguise. The film was met with positive reviews and currently holds a 77 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.