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Arts & LivingArts & Living

Posted on Fri, Jul. 04, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
Movie sins badly
Great imagery, but no story

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas blends traditional and computer-generated imagery in a gorgeously animated tale that falls flat in the story department.

Featuring the voices of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sinbad proves to be a disappointment of epic proportions because the story of an Arabian adventurer lends itself to animation.

Whereas visual effects master Ray Harryhausen had to rely on stop-motion animation to bring to life the ghastly creatures that populated The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, the filmmakers who worked on this version had almost 30 years of technology at their disposal and it shows.

Unfortunately, it doesn't show up in the story, which never ascends to the level of high adventure that it wants so desperately. Instead, while watching Sinbad battle assorted beasts, we have a sort of ho-hum, been-there-seen-that reaction.

And that's because we have been there. For an animated division that started off with the mantra to do things differently than Walt Disney Studios, DreamWorks and Mouse House refugee Jeffrey Katzenberg have created a film that feels rather conventional and -- GASP -- in the Disney tradition (we're talking Treasure Planet here, not The Lion King or Aladdin).

Past DreamWorks efforts -- Antz, Prince of Egypt and even Stallion: Legend of the Cimarron -- have at least been interesting and pushed the envelope in some respect. We cannot say that about Sinbad.

The story is set in ancient Arabia. Sinbad (voice by Pitt) and his colorful crew sail the oceans of the world, plundering whatever goods they can.

Sinbad tracks down a ship carrying the Book of Peace, an artifact rumored to bring prosperity to the great cities of Sinbad's time. The ship is captained by his former best friend Proteus (voice by Joseph Fiennes).

Years before they took divergent paths in life. Proteus, a prince, was destined to lead. Sinbad was unsure of his fate, but ultimately found a place on the seas.

Just as Sinbad is about to take his prize, a beast sent by the goddess Eris (voice by Michelle Pfeiffer) rises from the ocean to put a wrench in his plans. After a lengthy battle, Sinbad ends up in the water, but is rescued by Eris. She makes a deal to make him the wealthiest person on the planet in exchange for his help in getting the Book of Peace that Proteus has saved and transported to Syracuse.

What Sinbad doesn't know is that Eris is setting him up. Eris arrives in Syracuse, disguises herself as Sinbad and makes off with the book. Ambassadors from all of the major cities try to convict him, even as he expresses his innocence.

His old friend Proteus believes him and offers to stand in Sinbad's place while Sinbad tracks down Eris and returns the book to Syracuse.

Of course, Sinbad has no intention of ever coming back until he realizes that Proteus' fiancee, Marina (voice by Zeta-Jones), has stowed away to make sure he upholds his end of the bargain. She forces him to point his ship in the direction of Tartarus, Eris' homeland.

It's of little surprise that Sinbad has to maneuver some choppy seas to get to Eris and the book. And we all know that during the course of the trip, he's going to learn a lesson about what it means to be a friend and, gee, what do you think will happen with him and Marina?

Ultimately, we do not care, because we don't have a link to these characters and their experiences.

Directors Tim Johnson (Antz) and Patrick Gilmore would've added emotional depth had they collaborated with their screenwriter Katzenberg, who just happens to be their boss, and developed some scenes that showed Proteus and Sinbad as buds in their earlier years. As it is, Proteus is just some guy Sinbad used to hang with.

Bottom line: Kids will devour this like they haven't had sugar in six months. But for adults, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas sinks before it ever sets sail.

George M. Thomas is the movie critic for the Akron Beacon Journal. He can be reached at 330-996-3579 or
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