A Fish Tale (Help! I'm A Fish) Movie Poster Image

A Fish Tale (Help! I'm A Fish)

Animated sea adventure with kid heroes, music, mild scares.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 77 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Introduces some species of fish and underwater creatures. References the causes and results of global warming

Positive messages

Advocates teamwork, friendship, and "brain power" (using logic and knowledge lead to success). The concept of global warming -- and what will happen to our ecosystem because of it -- plays a major part in the movie's story. Some stereotyping: an overweight boy is nerdy and the butt of jokes, but proves himself worthy in a pinch; his overweight mother is bossy and made to look foolish.

Positive role models

Though he initially disobeys an important rule, the courageous young hero has empathy, strength of character, and takes responsibility for his mistakes. His two companions are equally resourceful and the three work together to get themselves out of trouble.

Violence & scariness

Cartoon action throughout. Three kids are in danger in multiple scenes. They are trapped by a high tide and roiling ocean; they fall through a tunnel and down stairs; find themselves cast overboard in the ocean during a storm; and more than once they must battle armies of crabs and other fish led by an evil pilot fish and his shark commander. They are in a race against time to find an antidote to restore them to human form and are threatened with death by "execution" and by piranhas. Some dark, suspenseful music and comically scary creatures (a shark, an octopus, the power-hungry pilot fish).

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that A Fish Tale -- an inventive, animated Danish film (nicely revoiced for English-speaking audiences) -- includes some suspenseful moments and some moderately scary visuals (an angry octopus, a toothy shark-villain, a raging storm, a battling army of crabs). Though no one is hurt or killed, the kids (and fish) are threatened with warfare, physical harm and/or death in several scenes, so it may not be right for very young kids or those who are easily frightened. One chubby boy is a stereotypical nerdy kid,  teased because of his weight and smarts, but he's ultimately very likeable and proves to be someone the others can rely on.

What's the story?

In A FISH TALE, Fly (Jeff Pace) is a great kid who loves a good adventure. He's looking forward to going fishing when his plans are abruptly canceled -- his parents are going out, leaving him and his little sister, Stella, with their bossy aunt and her nerdy son, Charles (Aaron Paul). Initially miffed, Fly seizes opportunity when his aunt falls asleep. The boy sneaks out, taking Stella and a reluctant Charles with him. Together the three kids make their way to the seashore where they encounter a mad scientist (Terry Jones) who's obsessed with saving the world from the rising seas that will result from global warming. From then on, it's one misstep after another: Fly and company accidentally turn into fish, end up in the ocean with a power-hungry enemy (Alan Rickman), and find themselves in a race against time to recover the antidote which will turn them back into themselves.

Is it any good?


This is an entertaining, nicely animated story, with engaging heroes, cleverly designed musical sequences, and exciting action. Alan Rickman, in a funny, slitheringly evil performance made well before he created the villainous Snape in the Harry Potter movies, tops a solid cast.

The animation is old-fashioned and combines simply-drawn characters with beautiful underwater settings. The submerged ocean liner and the mad scientist's laboratory are particularly original. Charming enough for kids' repeated viewings, there's enough wit to sustain grownups as well.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how action and violence is depicted differently. Do you think the action or violence in animated movies is as scary as in live-action movies? Why or why not? What kinds of scenes frighten you the most?

  • What is a stereotype? How is the character of Charles a "stereotype"? How did your opinion of him change by the end of the story?

  • When this movie was marketed for an American audience, the name was changed from Help! I'm A Fish to A Fish Tale. Do you like that change? What do you think was the reasoning behind it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 29, 2001
DVD/Streaming release date:September 5, 2006
Cast:Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Jeff Pace
Directors:Greg Manwaring, Michael Hegner, Stefan Fjeldmark
Studio:Genius Entertainment
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Misfits and underdogs, Ocean creatures
Run time:77 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of A Fish Tale (Help! I'm A Fish) was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Finding Nemo Movie Poster Image
    Sweet father-son tale has some very scary moments.
  • Shark Tale Movie Poster Image
    Fast, fresh, funny action comedy set undersea.
  • Under the Sea 3D Movie Poster Image
    Stunning vision of the beautiful -- and fragile -- ocean.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byAmybecs February 8, 2015

Lovely magical movie!

I loved this movie growing up-I still love it now! Great storyline, some bits are slightly confusing so I wouldn't recommend for under 6 year olds. Fab fab movie!!
Adult Written bynduns July 13, 2013

Surprisingly smart

For a film that critics often say won't appeal that much to older viewers, this film is quite well-written a lot of the time. True, some things are a tad eyeroll-worthy, such as Chuck constantly being the butt of every joke and Fly somehow having an idea for every situation, but even so, I do recommend this. The songs are fine, though not great, save for one that I hold in very high regard. The animations are good, but the occasional CGI does clash a bit with the hand-drawn stuff. One thing I really admire about this film is some of the risks it takes without even seeming to know it's taking them. First of all, six characters, one of which is actually a pretty important character, are eaten by Shark and the film doesn't even treat this like a big deal. There's a scene where the crab general claws Fly thus leading to a bit of blood flying out of him while his skin turns pale. I was shocked when I saw this scene and I can't help but applaud the movie for adding something so dark during its climax. (Oh, and his skin actually remains pale for more than 10 minutes. So much realism!) Speaking of which, the final confrontation between Fly and Joe, especially the way Fly beats him, is absolutely and utterly brilliant. Seriously, this is pure genius and it makes Fly a very well realized character. I actually recommend checking this out, though ignore the North American box art. It's terrible and misleading and, yeah, just pretend it's not there if you rent this one.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence