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Dustin Putman

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Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by Patrick Gilmore, Tim Johnson
Voices: Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert.
2003 – 84 minutes
Rated: Rated PG (for violence and mild sensuality).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 4, 2003.

"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 fiancé, 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.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman