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Director: Wes Anderson

Producers:Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin

Written by: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach

Cast: Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, Bud Cort, Jeff Goldblum, Noah Taylor


Bottle Rocket: :)

Rushmore: :)

The Royal Tenenbaums: :D

The Life Aquatic: :(

The movie opens with a distinctive Wes Anderson feel to it, and let that be your warning: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is unlikely to satisfy or entertain moviegoers unacquainted with or unenamored of that feel. And even Anderson completists like me may feel let down. While Anderson’s refreshingly original story ideas may make you want to hang out with him for a day to see what he’s like, they may not make you want to spend two hours watching his movie. And hey, I get it already: Bill Murray can act and he was robbed at the Oscars by not being awarded statuettes for Lost In Translation or Rushmore. But can a fan ask—no, plead—for another performance? Pretty please? Strike another note because, while you totally own the deadpan thing, Bill, it’s getting old.

Steve Zissou (Murray), a Jacques Cousteau-esque explorer and maker of oceanographic documentaries, has fallen on hard times. His latest film is received less than enthusiastically, his second-in-command and best friend was eaten by a jaguar shark on the last expedition, and he’s desperately seeking financing for his next documentary. His journey is complicated by the presence of Ned Plympton (Wilson), who may or may not be his illegitimate son; Jane Winslett-Richardson (Blanchett), a pregnant journalist covering the expedition; estranged wife Eleanor (Huston); her former amour, and Steve’s arch-rival oceanographer Hennessey (a slimy and wonderful Goldblum); and, eventually, pirates! On the plus side, Zissou has a band of true believers, Team Zissou (all wearing identical red watch caps that look for all the world like scarlet reservoir-tip condoms).

There’s a lot going on here—too much, in fact—but really, I cannot make a case for this movie, and I’m a big Wes Anderson fan. This is the second movie I’ve seen recently (the other was The Aviator) that was made by a director for whom music is a crucially important aspect of the setting. In The Life Aquatic, we get the usual quality soundtrack that accompanies an Anderson movie. But the bulk of the music is David Bowie songs covered in Portuguese by Seu Jorge; that’s nice, but it really feels like they’re here so that we can see what cool taste Wes Anderson has.

Despite charming performances, cool music, and some pretty pictures, it just isn’t a complete work. The Life Aquatic is not so much a movie as a chance to let this cool cast strut their stuff, much like the recent Ocean’s Twelve. And there's plenty of talent to go around; it'’s especially nice to see a funny Bud Cort back in action. But giving Bill Murray an opportunity to do his deadpan thing isn’t sufficient reason for making a movie. Though you can never go wrong with pirates…

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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