Dreamworks has taken a novel approach to their latest animated film, SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS. The studio has done an homage not just to adventure films from the 1950s, but more specifically, to the B adventure films from that era. Not that that’s a bad thing, they were fun in a kitschy way, perfect for kids, which would be the target audience here. Still, it is an interesting move and one that bears commenting upon.
The Sinbad of our story, huskily voiced by the Brad Pitt, is a happy guy, sailing the eponymous seven seas with his merry crew and a personable but slobbering dog. Sure, theyre thieves, but theyre no more dangerous than absolutely necessary to get the job done. Plus, theyve got long term goals that include retiring to Fiji on their ill-gotten gains. As the film begins, they have just one more bit of loot to plunder to make their tropical dreams come true, the Book of Peace, which has kept things friendly between the Twelve Cities for a thousand years. Alas, the ship its traveling on is captained by Sinbads childhood best friend, Prince Proteus. More problematical, Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, has set her sights on having the Book for herself, and since she’s got things like sea monsters working for her, what Eris wants, Eris gets. Except this time, when Sinbad kills the beastie, ticks off the goddess who then frames him for stealing the book, forcing Sinbad to go to the end of the world, literally, to find it again. Thus begin a set of legendary adventures and a romance with his best pals fiancée, Marina (plush-voiced Catherine Zeta-Jones).
The animation is dazzling. The ocean is rendered with a complexity and subtlety that is awe inspiring. Ditto the fabulous creatures that Sinbad and his crew meet along the way, such as fish as big as islands, and sirens made of sea water. Eris’ kingdom of chaos, Tartarus, has starry constellations that come to life with disconcerting ferocity, and its queen, Eris herself, (silky-voiced Michelle Pfeiffer), is particularly nice in her rendering, as sinuous as a wisp of smoke and just as vaporous as she manifests herself in and out of reality with hard glittering eyes and prehensile hair that evokes another mythical creature, the Medusa.
The humor, however, is mostly corny, but like the equally corny love story, never crosses into actively annoying. You know from the first parry of insults that Sinbad and Marina trade when she stows away on his ship that they are meant for each other. Just as you know that the crewmember always betting against Sinbad coming back alive is always going to lose. The run-ins with all manner of hostile magical creatures might be a little too intense for smaller kids, but there’s no getting around that they’re beautifully executed and the multiple chase sequences are nicely paced. Plus, it’s Marina who saves the day at least as often as Sinbad, though it is Sinbad who invents snowboarding while being chased by the giant snow bird.
Its not that SINBAD is a bad movie, visually, it’s a winner, but, script-wise, it is sorely uninspired.