Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
"Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" has been given the unfortunate
task of opening just over one month after "Finding Nemo," one of the
most creative, heartfelt, and accomplished animated features ever
made. Both films have been targeted to entertain all age demographics,
and both are adventures about a quest in search of something valuable,
but this is where the similarities ultimately end. "Finding Nemo"
was joyous and endlessly imaginative, with three-dimensional characters
you actually cared about--quite a feat for individuals that were created
solely on computers. In comparison, "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas"
is unmemorable and mostly generic, a merely passable time-waster whose
only claim to being more than such lays solely in its occasionally
exquisite action sequences.
Sinbad (voiced by Brad Pitt) is a drifting pirate who no sooner walks
back into the life of his best friend, Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), before
he is falsely accused of stealing the sacred Book of Peace and sentenced
to execution. In actuality, the culprit is the mischievous goddess
Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), who wants tyranny to overcome their tranquil
land of Syracuse. In a brave act of sacrifice, Proteus takes Sinbad's
death sentence in exchange for Sinbad's promise to travel to the land
of Tartarus and recover the book from Eris before the allotted time
limit. Accompanying Sinbad on his seafaring quest is Proteus' headstrong
fianc‚, Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who begins to hold feelings
for Sinbad as their journey becomes all the more perilous.
Directed by Patrick Gilmore and Tim Johnson (1998's "Antz"), "Sinbad:
Legend of the Seven Seas" is further proof that when it comes to making
animated family films, Disney is far more savvy than Dreamworks at
projects with mass appeal and more intriguing stories. While Dreamworks
was responsible for 2001's wonderful "Shrek," their other animated
ventures--from 2001's "The Road to El Dorado" to 2001's "Spirit: Stallion
of the Cimarron"--simply do not offer up what it takes to truly mesmerize
children. It is possible for kids and adults to be entertained by
"Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," but neither group will be blown
away by what is offered here. The story, although certainly not lacking
in scenes of high-flying adventure, is carried out in an uninspired
fashion, and the writing does not feature one notable line of dialogue.
Comedic relief is non-existent, while the characters (with one major
exception) are purely disposable.
As the voices of heroic love interests Sinbad and Marina, Brad Pitt
(2001's "Ocean's Eleven") and Catherine Zeta-Jones (2002's "Chicago")
distract more than they enliven their respective roles, because their
voices are so recognizable and their animated counterparts look nothing
like them. It is possible for major star voices to still make the
characters their own, but neither Pitt nor Zeta-Jones achieve such
a goal. For example, Michelle Pfeiffer (2002's "White Oleander") also
has an easily definable voice, but she does wonders with the villainess,
Eris. Pfeiffer is clearly having fun with the part, and strikes just
the right balance between seductive persuasion and embittered treachery.
In a film without much to give an unqualified recommendation, Eris
is one of the strongest animated villains since Jeremy Iron's Scar,
from 1994's "The Lion King," and Pat Carroll's Ursula, from 1989's "The Little Mermaid."
The other strong suit "Sinbad" lays claim to is its unconventional
animated style, mixing regular 2-D characters with computer-generated
backgrounds and creatures. This especially works during some of the
action centerpieces, such as an exciting trip through a dangerous
city of broken-down ship corpses and the scene set in the forbiddingly
beautiful world of Tartarus.
Surrounding the animation, action, and Michelle Pfeiffer's standout
vocal work is a film lacking in substance. At 84 minutes, "Sinbad"
moves at a quick clip, but doesn't warrant a moment's thought afterwards.
The writing, credited to John Logan (2002's "Star Trek: Nemesis"),
is lifeless, and the protagonists are strictly perfunctory creations
with nothing to set them apart from the hundreds of other heroes from
better animated movies. "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" is far
from terrible, but it is cursed with a mediocrity that, in today's
age, kids and their parents (and animation fans) deserve better than.
The lovely and wondrous "Finding Nemo" only cements this notion.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman