Great scenery and battles can't save heartless 'Sinbad'
Scott Craven The Arizona Republic Jul. 2, 2003 12:00 AM
Over the years, Sinbad has sailed the high seas, slaying monsters and escaping perilous situations. But now he needs to track down the people who stole his heart.
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has some swash, a little buckling, but very little soul. The Sinbad created by DreamWorks is flat and lifeless compared with the stunning visuals of the computer-animated backgrounds he moves against.
Brad Pitt voices the title character, and you can almost imagine the star lounging on a recliner, beer in hand, watching the latest Friends episode while delivering his lines. The inflections are all the same, whether Sinbad is delivering a wisecrack or his crew from danger.
The hand-drawn animation of the characters won't make anyone forget Disney (or Fox, for that matter). Faces lack detail save for their oversize eyes, where all the emotion takes place. Mouths seem slightly out of synch with the dialogue, and characters move awkwardly, lacking the flow that audiences are accustomed to seeing in big-budget animated features.
The care and effort that went into the computer-designed settings is evident from the first scene, as Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), the goddess of chaos, looks down upon our hero, who is attempting to steal the Book of Peace, a priceless artifact that keeps safe the 12 Cities. (This being ancient times, no one has the ability to illegally download the book and spread its goodness everywhere.)
Eris sends a sea monster to put the chaos into motion, a well-choreographed 3-D battle that gives the movie promise. But the film melts back into its 2-D self each time Sinbad sheaths his swords and opens his mouth.
The monster keeps Sinbad from his prize, but Eris offers him an even better deal if he steals the book for her, thus beginning her dark reign. That's fine for Sinbad, who was contemplating early retirement anyway.
Eris, however, is hardly true to her word, framing Sinbad and turning everyone against him, save his old friend Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), who happens to be a prince and in a position to let Sinbad prove his worth. Thus the legend begins. Finally.
There is the obligatory romance with Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), which unfolds in the kind of Hepburn-Tracy predictability that makes even Eris yearn for the fast-forward button, at one point muttering, "OK, enough talk." You go, goddess.
The computerized visuals are a treat, particularly when Sinbad arrives in Eris' realm amid an ocean of sand, which rolls and recedes to reveal many treasures beneath. Unfortunately, the computer couldn't write the dialogue or voice the characters.
Children 5 and older will enjoy the action and the bloodless battle scenes (no animated human is killed or seriously injured), though the younger ones may fidget as Sinbad and Marina get all touchy-feely.
Its not that the film was particularly Sinbad, but it could have been much Sin-better.