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Review

'Sinbad' more ho-hum than yo ho ho

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 1, 2003

Two-dimensional animation is on its last legs in the movies, stripped of its once-special status by a glut of television cartoons plus computer technology that creates a nearly 3-D effect. It would take a remarkable story with memorable characters - something like Spirited Away - to keep audiences interested in the comparative flatness of what thrilled us until Pixar came long.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has neither of those qualities. Ten or 15 years ago it might have been an exciting movie adventure. Now it's just another doodle from DreamWorks, apparently biding time until Shrek 2 arrives next summer to again challenge Pixar and Disney's collaborative stranglehold on animation appeal.

(DreamWorks is using Shrek 2 as a lure for Sinbad customers, giving away a promotional CD-ROM for the sequel to children buying tickets this weekend.)

The lukewarm appeal of this film and last year's Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron should prove to DreamWorks that 2-D animation is an antiquated art form moviegoers won't settle for anymore.

What we have here is essentially Treasure Planet without the outer space angle. Swashbuckling pirates swinging on ropes and ships sailing through rolling seas make interesting action for the first siege or so, but then the excitement limitations begin to show. A bland hero, limp villain and elementary quest don't help matters. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is merely a time-waster and, at a scant 78 minutes, not much of that.

Brad Pitt's boyish contemporary line readings aren't suited to the dashing, muscular Sinbad the artists drew. It's almost like seeing Mike Tyson for the first time, then hearing him speak. Catherine Zeta-Jones lends her purring voice to the requisite love interest, Marina, barely spunky enough to avoid the age-old complaints about dependent female characters, especially in animation.

Marina is a stowaway on a voyage to recover the Book of Peace stolen first by Sinbad, then by Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), the goddess of chaos. Aside from a terrific sea creature or two, Eris doesn't whip up much trouble in the movie, so the urgency of retrieving the Book of Peace - whatever it does - is greatly diminished. Very little seems to be at stake except Marina's conflicted affection for Sinbad and his pal Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), a dull excuse for such an adventure.

Directors Patrick Gilmore and Tim Johnson aren't as haphazard in their production as Treasure Planet was, but erring on the side of caution is equally regrettable in the summer movie season, when entertainment should be bolder, funnier, louder and other things Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas doesn't do better.

The filmmakers point out their own deficiencies in the sequence where Sinbad's ship is attacked by a giant squidlike monster. It's one of the rare times Gilmore and Johnson resort to 3-D computer animation, and it sticks out like a glorious sore thumb. Notice the creature's lifelike texture and movements, a distinct contrast to the uninspired drawings surrounding it.

It's enough to make moviegoers want to find Nemo again, and that's the worst thing DreamWorks can imagine.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

Grade: C

Directors: Patrick Gilmore, Tim Johnson

Cast: Voices of Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Haysbert, Joseph Fiennes, Christine Baranski

Screenplay: John Logan

Rating: PG; animated action violence, brief sensuality and profanity

Running time: 78 min.


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