Thu. Jul. 3, 2003. | Updated at 02:46 AM
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Jul. 2, 2003. 07:30 AM
Tim Johnson's 21st-Century version of the Sinbad legend reconfigures the adventuring sailor as a wisecracking boyband cutie, with a dog named Spike.
Sinbad adds cute to swash and buckling

GEOFF PEVERE
MOVIE CRITIC


Sinbad: Legend

Of The Seven Seas

Voices by Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer and Joseph Fiennes. Written by John Logan. Directed by Tim Johnson. At major theatres. G


Because new generations of children arrive as reliably as the tides, each gets the Sinbad it deserves. For war babies, it was Max and Dave Fleischer's spinach-fortified, corkscrew-punching Popeye version, and for boomers it was Ray Harryhausen's stop-action animated classic The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad.

If these and a great many other prior incarnations share anything in common with the current, digitally animated Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas apart from the name and salty setting it's in the technology: Each new revolution in cartoonery launches the venerable swashbuckler anew. The more virtual the reality, the more likely Sinbad will eventually sail through it.

And because computer animation now permits the fully revitalized experience of such seasoned thrills as giant squids, oceangoing tempests and angry gods, Sinbad has been inevitably reincarnated to give them something to play with.

An efficiently amusing and unsurprisingly polished blend of traditional hand-drawn and computer-generated animation techniques at least it's not a musical Tim Johnson's (first) 21st-century version of the Sinbad legend reconfigures the adventuring sailor as a boy-band cute wisecracker with a dog named Spike, a voice provided by Brad Pitt and a tendency to talk like someone who watches a lot of TV below deck between seafaring escapades: "Okay," he says when confronted by yet another computer generated mythical monstrosity. "Now I'm like totally creeped-out."

And, naturally, a go-girl romantic interest the perky-cute Marina, voiced by Catherine Zeta-Jones whom he falls hopelessly for but only after a few preliminary rounds of requisite romantic comedy hard-to-get. Nothing bonds a relationship like a death-defying cruise to the Earth's edge.

Thrown together on a quest to retrieve the legendary Book Of Peace from the sultry Goddess of Chaos, Eris (a shape-shifting prankster who looks like vintage Cher but sounds like Michelle Pfeiffer), Sinbad and Marina prove themselves equals not just in graphically designed good looks but action-figure agility.

Pooling their native wiles, they wind up thwarting all manner of ancient-world obstacles: Sirens, sea-monsters, giant birds, goddesses of chaos, the whole mythological shebang.

Needless to say, it gives nothing away to note that, in the end, Sinbad sails quite happily into a spun-gold virtual sunset, there to rest until the next generation of synthetic storytelling techniques summons his services once again.

Additional articles by Geoff Pevere


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