Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003) / Animated Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG for mild violence and some crude humor
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast (voices): Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert
Director: Patrick Gilmore, Tim Johnson
Screenplay: John Logan
Review published July 6, 2003
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is another attempt by Jeffrey Katzenberg and the folks at DreamWorks to take a chunk out of the Disney dominance of the animated family film market. While it's competently made, and decent fun, it looks like they still have a ways to go before they can claim any masterpieces, or even classics, as far as children's entertainment goes thus far. Previous attempts haven't fared so well, with Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado mimicking the look of Disney, but not really capturing the spirit or the fun. Then they had a financial breakthrough with Shrek, and it seems DreamWorks has a formula for success of their own: inject some contemporary language, potty humor and mild innuendo to entertain the kiddies as well as the adults.
The Sinbad (Pitt, Ocean's Eleven) of the title is a Syracusean pirate, who finds himself framed by the goddess of discord, Eris (Pfeiffer, White Oleander), in the theft of the Book of Peace. The council of Syracuse sentence Sinbad to die since he cannot produce the book, but prince Proteus (Fiennes, Elizabeth) decides to substitute himself for his friend, and a deal is worked out whereby Proteus will be executed should Sinbad not be able to return with the Book within 10 days. Accompanying Sinbad on his perilous journey is Proteus' fiancée, Marina (Zeta-Jones, Chicago), who has always had a passion to see the world outside of Syracuse.
Although there are some fantastic creatures encountered, people shouldn't expect anything akin to the Ray Harryhausen style of animation like the Sinbad movies of the past for this modern adventure. Still, the animation is impressive, an appealing mix of standard cartoon and CGI that blends well and gives Sinbad a unique look.
The voice acting is hit-and-miss. Russell Crowe was reportedly slated to voice the title role, but they had to settle for Brad Pitt, who does an adequate job, but a bit more robustness and manliness in the pitch probably would have helped. Zeta-Jones is quite good however, as is Pfeiffer in a voice which hearkens back to her Catwoman days, including an instance of the word "purr-fect."
Sinbad is penned by John Logan, whose list of credits include other fantastical adventures like Gladiator, The Time Machine, and Star Trek: Nemesis. This one is no less imaginative, at least in terms of the locales and strange creatures the travelers encounter. The main plot, and the ensuing love triangle however, is strictly standard stuff, and rather predictable for the experienced moviegoers. But it does the job, and along with the lively animation and terrific score by Harry Gregson-Williams (The Rock, Shrek), it succeeds in delivering all of the goods you might expect.
With such stellar, groundbreaking strides in animation of late in films like Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo, a film like Sinbad almost seems inadequate, and a bit antiquated. No catchy tunes and no 3-D environments to marvel at, just a barebones adventure done with efficiency and formula heroics. As far as family films go, it's a good diversion for the younger set and just enough for the adults to sit through once. It's a classical tale, just don't expect a classic.
©2003 Vince Leo