Though clearly designed to challenge the deep-sea supremacy of Pixar's FINDING NEMO (2003), Dreamworks' gaudy, vulgar, sadly debased spin on Kenneth Grahame's sly revisionist fairy tale "The Reluctant Dragon" is one soggy, charmless heap of chum. In an underwater metropolis that bears a striking resemblance to Manhattan, small-fry Oscar (voice of Will Smith) dreams of the lush life but can barely hang on to his lowly job at the Whale Wash. In fact, were it not for pretty, levelheaded Angie (Renee Zellweger), Oscar would already have been tossed out on his tail fins for tardiness, goofing off and borrowing against his salary to fund ill-conceived get-rich-quick schemes. Angie is, naturally, secretly in love with Oscar, who's too self-centered to notice but happily accepts her financial help in repaying their excitable boss, puffer-fish Sykes (Martin Scorsese). Oscar stupidly bets the money on a long shot at the sea-horse track, thereby getting himself into even deeper water, if you'll excuse the phrase. But just as it looks as though Oscar's luck has run out, he's mistakenly credited with having killed a vicious shark. Suddenly Oscar is a hero, rewarded with a deluxe apartment, commercial endorsements, public adulation and the amorous attentions of glittering slutfish Lola (Angelina Jolie). Naturally, there's a downside to Oscar's good fortune: The dead shark's father, powerful crime lord Don Lino (Robert De Niro), vows vengeance. But Oscar finds an unlikely ally in Don Lino's other son, Lenny (Jack Black). Like Grahame's dragon, who'd rather polish his scales and write sonnets than breathe fire or devour damsels, Lenny is a lamb of a great white shark, a gentle lover of all living creatures who helps Oscar uphold his undeserved reputation. The script is undeniably clever, a rapid-fire barrage of puns, sight gags, in-jokes and self-referential allusions to movies ranging from SCARFACE (1983) to JAWS (1975), most of them highly unsuitable viewing for the youngsters at whom this film is aimed. But not unlike Oscar himself, it's more grating than endearing. For a hero, he's an irritating little pisher, a motormouthed hustler swimming in a sea of glossy urban stereotypes, from graffiti vandals to gold diggers and blustering mack daddies. Oscar deserves a stinging comeuppance, not the rewards that drift his undeserving way, and for all the film's obvious moral lessons — it's okay to be different, love trumps money, friends stick together — it winds up celebrating the shallow flash-and-trash values it pretends to mock.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG
- Review: Though clearly designed to challenge the deep-sea supremacy of Pixar's FINDING NEMO (2003), Dreamworks' gaudy, vulgar, sadly debased spin on Kenneth Grahame's sly revisionist fairy tale "The Reluctant Dragon" is one soggy, charmless heap of chum. In an und… (more)