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Sinbad: Seven Seas

Bottom line: Grand cartoon entertainment reminiscent of Saturday matinee adventures.
Wednesday, July 2

Right from the start, when Eris, goddess of chaos, makes her earth-rocking entrance, "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" plunges us into a world of boyhood dreams. Pirates attack a prince's ship. A sea monster attacks the pirates. A powerful treasure gets stolen. A chase ensues, interrupted by alluring Sirens, an enormous bird of prey, a gigantic fish and tropical seas that experience a bizarre Ice Age. All the while, Eris purrs with laughter. "Sinbad" is a cartoon that does what matinee moviemakers of old never had the resources to do: allow their imagination to run amok in an ancient world that never existed -- but should have.

The new flexibility in animation, where 2-D can mix with 3-D, lets DreamWorks' artists create an action-drama of the first order. The robust movements of characters and creatures, of rolling oceans with enormous wakes, of men in battle or Sirens dancing seductively in halos of sea spray, transpire in the wink of an eye.

While males of all ages will scamper to this tale of rough men and rougher seas, writer John Logan ("Gladiator") and directors Tim Johnson and Patrick Gilmore place two dominating females at the heart of the story. Repeat business from all quarters seems assured. "Sinbad" should roam the theatrical seas most lucratively before landing on the Treasure Island of home entertainment.

The color palette here is darker than in most animated films, emphasizing deep blues and seas at twilight, capturing a world where men can become the plaything of a goddess and where treachery, not nobility, lurks in most hearts. Sinbad (voiced by Brad Pitt) is full of sin and badness all right. Coming off a 10-year winning streak of robbery and pillage on the high seas, he and his motley crew encounter a ship captained by his one-time best friend, Proteus (Joseph Fiennes). While glad to see his old buddy, the rogue suffers from no nostalgia. Sinbad insists that he intends to relieve Proteus of the priceless Book of Peace, which governs the great cities in the Syracuse alliance.

A sea monster dispatched by Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer, clearly having a great time with the sensuous villainy) intervenes. But Sinbad follows Proteus to Syracuse when Eris makes a pact with him to steal the Book of Peace. She double crosses Sinbad by stealing it herself, disguised as Sinbad, so blame will fall on him. Sinbad is sentenced to death, but Proteus insists on taking his place on death row while Sinbad sails to Tartarus, the land of Erin, to retrieve the Book.

Proteus' beauteous fiancee Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones) stows away on Sinbad's ship to make certain he fulfills his mission. Not only does her presence aboard ship throw Sinbad into a chauvinistic tizzy, but it threatens to expose his one guilty secret: He has loved Marina for years. So he mistreats her, thus causing a near mutiny by his crew (led by Dennis Haysbert, Timothy West and Adriano Giannini) and even his loyal bulldog Spike. All the while, the sailors must battle creatures and weather conditions sent by Eris to throw them off course.

The movie's ancient worlds are all lushly rendered by the animation artists, displaying details not only from the world according to Ray Harryhausen but from the Greco-Roman world and Middle East. As with all good animation, these serve as backdrops to the comedy and adventure the characters encounter every second. It's a brisk 85 minutes with the action urged on by Harry Gregson-Williams' rousing symphonic score. Logan's script is unusually literate for a cartoon, filled with witty and playful dialogue. Jokes play at different levels for children and adults, which, along with the fights, account for the PG rating.

Suffice it to say, the hundreds of animation artists on this three-year project made enormous contributions to the final film. There is not an off-kilter moment nor awkward effect in the entire movie.

DreamWorks Pictures
DreamWorks SKG

Directors: Tim Johnson, Patrick Gilmore
Screenwriter: John Logan
Producers: Mireille Soria, Jeffrey Katzenberg
Production designer: Raymond Zibach
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Head of story: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Head of layout: Damon O'Beirne
Animation supervisor: Kristof Serrannd
Editor: Tom Finan
Sinbad: Brad Pitt
Marina: Catherine Zeta-Jones
Eris: Michelle Pfeiffer
Proteus: Joseph Fiennes
Kale: Dennis Haysbert
Dymas: Timothy West
Rat: Adriano Giannini
Running time -- 85 minutes
MPAA rating: PG

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