Sinbad
Legend of the Seven Seas
review by Gregory Avery, 4 July 2003

DreamWorks' new animated feature, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, makes one wonder if anyone is checking the scripts for these things before they go through all the time and expense of putting them into production. For one thing, the story is a complete mess, full of inexplicable plot turns, contradictions and reversals which ruin everything. More on what's wrong with the rest of the film later.

Eris, the goddess of chaos, wants to get her hands on the hologramic "Book of Peace" so that she can wreak havoc and disorder; she convinces the roistering seafarer and thief Sinbad to steal it for her, but then turns right around and takes it herself, anyway (in which case, why ask Sinbad to do it for her in the first place?). When Sinbad agrees to go fetch it back for the rulers of Syracuse (a Sicilian locale, by the way -- the characters and story have been scrupulously de-Arabianized), Eris says that she will give the book to him if he answers one question -- a highly anti-climatic promise of whether he'll return it or not. (This from a deity that can sic sea monsters onto ships.) "You're lying," she says after Sinbad gives his answer, and gives him the boot, just like we already thought she would. And the ending is even more exasperating.

This lack of focus affects the entire picture -- while it's not entirely the fault of Brad Pitt, who voices the character, this Sinbad sounds like someone you'd run into at a supermarket. He delivers flippant neo-quips -- "Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure robbing with you." -- in the manner of that ultimate Eighties quipmeister, screenwriter Shane Black. The script also includes vomit jokes and other puerile witticisms, such as when Sinbad shuts Marina (voiced by Catherine Zeta-Jones) in with the ship's dog (who, for some reason, is shown constantly drooling -- does this animal need his shots?) and says, "If he starts hugging your leg, it means he likes you." (One wonders if they changed "humping" to "hugging" in order to get a PG rating.)

There's an island that turns out to be a really, really, REALLY big fish, but some of the other creatures aren't up to the small miracles that Ray Harryhausen used to whip up for producer Charles H. Schneer's Sinbad pictures. (Harryhausen designed, made, animated, lighted, and photographed all of his stop-motion creations himself, which gave them a distinctly individualized quality, from the wondrously slithery dinosaur in Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, with its switching tail, to the gamboling trained elephant in Valley of Gwangi.) While Marina reeducated Sinbad on how women aren't as weak as men think they are, I found myself watching the film and yearning for Kerwin Mathews and Kathryn Grant. (At least there aren't any Bryan Adams songs.)

And what's with the vulgarity creeping into current so-called "family" pictures? Last year, Snow Dogs opened with two jokes during the first seven minutes that I found to be particularly inappropriate for children; the year before that, there was See Spot Run, with its "I'm covered in caca!" scene. What's more, I fear that parents are resigning themselves to finding unexpected instances of crudeness in films they're taking their kids to see. Outfits like CleanFlicks are already snipping away at films and censoring them for customers. I would rather see Hollywood producers exercise some good, old-fashioned Good Taste, instead.

Directed by:
Tim Johnson
Patrick Gilmore

Starring the
Voices of:

Brad Pitt
Michelle Pfeiffer
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Dennis Haysbert
Adriano Giannini
Joseph Fiennes

Written by:
John Logan

Rated:
PG - Parental
Guidance Suggested.
Some material may
not be appropriate
for children.

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