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Posted 7/1/2003 9:38 PM     Updated 7/2/2003 11:10 AM
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'Sinbad' is good but not legendary
In Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas(* * ½) Michelle Pfeiffer shows again how her sultry purr can be put to powerful use for evil as well as good. The movie could have ended up being SinBrad, as in Pitt, who plays the title character. But it's Pfeiffer who steals the show.

She plays the goddess of chaos and discord, who is also a sucker for a cute face. (That would be Sinbad.) Pitt's Sinbad is winning, as is Catherine Zeta-Jones' fearless Marina, but neither performance captivates as much as Pfeiffer's.

Sinbad is a swashbuckling adventure saga that probably will appeal more to older kids. But it's not a wondrous tale. The effects are competent, the action has exciting moments and the story is interesting enough, but the parts don't add up to a compelling sum.

It's timely and touching to see Zeta-Jones play a confident, competent seagoing woman reminiscent of the late Katharine Hepburn. The roguish and handsome Sinbad recalls the likablility of Aladdin. And Pfeiffer's Eris is reminiscent of a sexy, slimmed-down Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Unfortunately, the movie conjures comparisons with the well-made but lackluster Treasure Planet.

Sinbad has spent most of his life on the open sea and has a reputation as a scoundrel. His bad rep and the mischievous ways of Eris get him framed for the theft of a sacred treasure, the Book of Peace, despite one man's staunch belief that Sinbad is innocent.

That man is Proteus, Sinbad's childhood pal. When Sinbad is about to be executed for the crime, Proteus offers to take his place, so certain is he that Sinbad will do the right thing and find the book.

Proteus' feisty but duty-bound fiancée, Marina, has longed for adventure and stows away on Sinbad's boat. She's there to keep Sinbad honest, but, naturally, she irks him, which heightens the romantic tension. Along the way, Marina proves her mettle as a sailor.

The blend of computer and traditional animation sometimes feels jarring, particularly in an early scene in which Sinbad and Proteus fend off a ferocious sea monster.

Written by Gladiator screenwriter John Logan, Sinbad is a more nuanced adventure story than that overheated saga. And the kids are bound to enjoy the derring-do. You just wish for a touch of magic. (PG: adventure action, mild sensuality, brief language)