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Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

A film review by Sean O'Connell - Copyright © 2003

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DreamWorks’ animated division continues its mediocre streak of family-centered adventures with the visually stimulating but substandard Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.

Based ever-so-loosely on Sinbad’s literary escapades, the film shows our courageous thief (voiced by Brad Pitt) in pursuit of the mystical Book of Peace. When mischievous goddess Eris (voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer) steals the book from Proteus (voiced by Joseph Fiennes), she frames Sinbad for her crime. Now the self-centered rogue and his stowaway love interest, Marina (voiced by Catherine Zeta-Jones), must reclaim the book from the Realm of Chaos to prove Sinbad’s innocence and spare Proteus’ life at the hands of an executioner.

What starts as a virtual barn-burner settles into a familiar and relatively tedious groove before sputtering to a rational conclusion. DreamWorks’ traditional animators have yet to evolve beyond the angular faces and somber color schemes first presented in 1998’s The Prince of Egypt (I’m ignoring both Antz and Shrek, which relied on computerized animation). Sinbad jazzes up its color palette when painting various sea creatures and mountain monsters, but the visuals unintentionally call to mind Disney’s recent Treasure Planet for their use of dazzling silvers, maroons, and blues.

The film’s vocal talent fluctuates. Pfeiffer brings a breathy, spoiled, and diabolic passion to Eris, while Zeta-Jones conveys Marina’s playful sense of adventure. But Pitt – largely because he’s limited to shallow statements – comes off as dull. His Sinbad is an arrogant jerk. It’s one thing to make your hero a selfish thief with no sense of loyalty. But pigeon-holing him as a condescending, pig-headed, and sexist fool makes it difficult for us to root for him on any level.

Maybe if we had other characters to invest our emotions into, Sinbad would’ve swept me away. But too few members of Sinbad’s crew carve out personalities. The nimble Rat may land a few comedic jabs, but Sinbad’s right-hand man, Kale (24 star Dennis Haysbert), can’t emerge from the hero’s animated shadow and easily slips from memory. Proteus’ faith in Sinbad is noble. It doesn’t change the fact that Sinbad’s main motivation is greed. Can you tell I just didn’t like this character?

Sinbad flourishes in spots. Co-directors Patrick Gilmore and Tim Johnson introduce imaginative creatures and show real flair for animated swashbuckling. Our hero’s journey through the Siren’s realm is impressively choreographed, as is his escape from the Roc, a menacing snow-white ice bird. But the romantic bickering between Sinbad and Marina grows predictable and tiresome, as does the standardized plot. That’s Sinbad’s final obstacle, and it proves to be one he can’t overcome. Sinbad offers impressive animation, but it’s hampered by conventional storytelling from John Logan, the man that subjected us to Star Trek: Nemesis and The Time Machine.

Pretty bad.


Director: Tim Johnson, Patrick Gilmore

Producer: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Mireille Soria, John Wells

Screenwriter: John Logan

Stars: Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Haysbert, Joseph Fiennes

MPAA Rating: PG

Year of Release: 2003

Released on Video: Not Yet Available

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