Three youngsters are transformed into underwater specimens and have 48 hours to find the antidote in “Help! I’m a Fish,” an animated feature-length adventure with musical numbers. One of the hottest-selling pics in the 2000 Cannes Market, pan-European venture by the directors of “Jungle Jack” is reasonably funny, scary and suspenseful but shines only rarely on the animation front, with marine life rendered more imaginatively than the human members of the story. French-dubbed print caught works fine, although the vocal intonations of Alan Rickman as the evil despot fish in the English-lingo version are presumably even more delectable. Pic has racked up nice numbers throughout Scandi territories, where it was released late last year, and is doing OK in Gaul.
Classy, impressionistic animation of underwater inhabitants is used up in the opening credits, after which the drawing style switches to a more standard cartoon look. But in a marketing landscape where the general public appears to prefer the bloated, charmless overkill of a live-action “Grinch” to the beautifully rendered and emotionally spot-on “The Iron Giant,” “Fish” comes as salutary entertainment for all but the very youngest viewers.
With her roly-poly computer nerd of a son in tow, pushy Aunt Anna comes over to baby-sit for cute little Stella and her irreverent older brother, Fly. But when Anna nods off, Fly takes his sister and cousin fishing. Caught off guard by high tide, the trio happens upon the grotto-based lab of a wacky-but-benign scientist (voiced by Terry Jones in the English version) who has developed a potion to turn humans into fish. (This will come in handy when the ice caps melt and flood the continents.) The antidote is painstakingly composed of ingredients from seaweed to squid ink.
Thirsty Stella accidentally drinks the potion, which turns her into a starfish. Not realizing it’s his sibling, Fly tosses the creature into the ocean. In order to retrieve her, Fly gulps the elixir and turns into a talking fish with a baseball cap.
Meanwhile, the flask containing the antidote falls into the fins of Joe (Rickman), a pilot fish, who after a few drops gains useful human attributes such as brain-power and speech. Instantly, the power-mad Joe envisions himself in charge of a fish empire.
Script is genuinely down to the wire as the trio matches wits with evil Joe. Musical numbers are adequately catchy.