Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
|Featuring||Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe|
|Producer||Scott Rudin, Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel|
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew—Team Zissou—set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly non-existant Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou’s partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. They are joined on their voyage by a young airline co-pilot who may or may not be Zissou’s son (Owen Wilson), a beautiful journalist (Cate Blanchett) assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and Zissou’s estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston). They face overwhelming complications including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy.”
Have you ever seen a painting, read a book, or heard a song, that to you just seemed utter garbage, but to the artsy critics of the world seemed pure gold? Now, I admit, I am a sucker for artsy movies, if they are entertaining to me in the slightest; it doesn’t have to make complete and total sense, as long as it keeps me happy and wraps up nicely. One film that did that for me was Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums”; I knew it was somewhat pretentious, self-serving, but it was so confidently made and wonderfully acted that I couldn’t help but walking away loving it. The same cannot be said, however, for Anderson’s latest film “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.” The film seems pieced together by an artist so smug in his previous successes that he feels anything he touches will turn up gold.
The film tells the story of oceanographer and documentary filmmaker Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). It opens with Zissou showing his latest film, chronicling his latest undersea adventure, which this time ends in sadness. His longtime friend and oceanography partner, Esteban (Seymour Cassel) was killed during filming when a shark, which Zissou calls a “jaguar shark,” eats him during one of their dives. After showing the film, he fields questions from the audience, and is asked what the scientific purpose of killing the endangered shark would be. In one of them film’s few great lines, Zissou says with no real feeling whatsoever “Revenge.”
Zissou puts together his usual ragtag team of filmmakers and scientists for the trip to sea. Along for the ride are the familiar faces of Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, and Willem Dafoe, among others. The crew must actually find the shark, which was tagged when it ate Esteban, but because the ship’s tracking device is no longer operational, they must steal a high-tech one from Zissou’s personal and professional rival, played by Jeff Goldblum. The crew encounter various obstacles on the way to finding the shark, including, of course, pirates.
The performances in the film are quite stale, considering the talent involved. Zissou may be a tired, beat up seaman, but Murray’s performance generates little sympathy; it is very monotone, which has worked for him before, but for some reason doesn’t quite fit here. Owen Wilson is decent in his role as Zissou’s possible son, but isn’t given any scenes of real meat, and he and Murray lack the chemistry I was expecting.
Anjelica Huston and Cate Blanchett are the only truly notable performances in the film. Huston wears the look of someone used to keeping all emotions on the inside, and in the film’s finally scenes, plays it beautifully. Blanchett is strong as the pregnant journalist on board writing a piece on Zissou. She is strong when she wants to be, when confronted by the men in her life, but fragile when alone, and Blanchett as always comes through in a film not worthy of her skills.
The film’s content is typical of Anderson’s previous work, with maybe a bit more violence. The profanity is needlessly strong, with many uses of the F and Gd-words. Nudity is also needlessly present, but fortunately brief. The crew’s script writer is seen, primarily for laughs (which don’t come), topless in all of her first four scenes of the film. The nudity, however, is mostly at a distance or obscured in some way, as if that matters. Violence is seen involving a shootout with pirates, and was at times a bit bloody, but nothing too offensive.
“The Life Aquatic” somehow feels arrogant right from the get go. While it worked with Anderson’s previous films, he doesn’t flesh out anything that would at least make us think it has earned the right to feel that way. The characters aren’t that interesting, the acting is stale, and the animation of the sea creatures is at times bizarre. With a wealth of great movies out in the theater right now, I felt cheated out of my time, which could have been better spent doing anything else. For the first time in my life, I considered walking out of a movie, not because I was offended, but because I simply wasn’t all that interested in how it was going to end. And, had I not been reviewing this film, I very well might have. Running 1 hour and 58 minutes and rated R for “language, some drug use, violence, and partial nudity,” “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” gets a D+.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate