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Entertainment News

Animated adventure a visual misadventure, but with great voices

07/02/03

Julie E. Washington
Plain Dealer Reporter

The original Sinbad the Sailor escaped certain death in each of his seven voyages in "The Arabian Nights," and the character has shown the same kind of longevity over time.

In TV shows and movies - and even a comedian's stage name - Sinbad always returns to the pop-culture stage. Now DreamWorks has launched the rogue adventurer on yet another quest, the animated "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas."

Brad Pitt is the voice of Sinbad, who is accused of stealing the precious Book of Peace from the monument where it rested within the ancient city of Syracuse. Sinbad insists that the capricious and lovely Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), the goddess of chaos, is guilty.

The city fathers agree to spare Sinbad's life if he retrieves the book from Eris' otherworldly realm. Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a spunky young woman itching for adventure, insists on coming with Sinbad.

In between dispatching giant creatures, Marina and Sinbad bicker in that cute-nauseating way that romantic-comedy characters do. But "Sinbad" isn't a romantic comedy. Nor is it much of an adventure. Just what is this movie trying to be?

It's too bad that "Sinbad" is mediocre, because its voice talent is excellent. Pitt, Zeta-Jones and Pfeiffer in particular make their characters seem real. Pitt infuses Sinbad with charm and bravado. The most fun to watch is Pfeiffer's sexy goddess Eris, portrayed on-screen as a sinuous shape-changer.

The voice actors accomplish much, even though the animation isn't up to the photo-realistic standard set by animated movies such as "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc."

To my layperson's eyes, it looked as if the characters were hand-drawn and the backgrounds were computer-rendered, so the backgrounds looked better than the characters. "Sinbad" has the whiff of a project done fast and cheap.

"Sinbad" reminded me of another tepid animated effort, "Treasure Planet." Both are tossed salads of elements meant to appeal to various demographic groups, instead of examples of coherent and committed storytelling.

Can "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" conjure Sinbad into the 21st century? Ask the goddess of box-office chaos.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jwashington@plaind.com, 216-999-4539


© 2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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