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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.8%
Just Average: 10.4%
Pretty Crappy: 15.2%
Sucks: 8%

9 reviews, 71 user ratings

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Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Another morosely magical Wes Anderson tale."
5 stars

Wes Anderson creates a highly stylized and peculiar world, which either works for you or it doesn't. It works for me beautifully, and 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou' deserves to take its place with 'Bottle Rocket' (1996), 'Rushmore' (1998), and 'The Royal Tenenbaums' (2001) as a half-jocular, half-melancholy portrait of dreamers and losers.

As Anderson's career has grown and he's been allowed more money to play with, his onscreen universe has gotten more lovingly, obsessively detailed; his movies seem to unfold in some alternate universe where Futura Bold is the dominant font and an exotic, nonexistent fish like the "rhinestone bluefin" is so taken for granted by the characters it's used as bait.

By now, a Wes Anderson movie without Bill Murray (who has graced Anderson's previous two films) seems unthinkable, and here he finally has the lead as Steve Zissou, underwater explorer. There was a time when Zissou's short films about the mysteries of the deep were eagerly devoured by kids worldwide, who belonged to "Team Zissou" by way of an official Zissou Fan Club ring. Now Zissou is 52 and finds himself having to scrounge for funding, often at odds with pompous tycoon Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum), who happens to be the ex of Zissou's wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston). Zissou has a new and emotionally urgent mission: find and (possibly) kill the elusive jaguar shark that ate his old friend Esteban (Seymour Cassel) on Team Zissou's last expedition.

Owen Wilson turns up as Ned, a Kentucky pilot who thinks Zissou might be his father. Ned was a Team Zissou fan as a kid, and still has his Fan Club ring; we're left to imagine the bittersweet feelings of his mom, who once slept with Zissou thirty years ago, as she gave young Ned the money to send away for that ring. Wilson co-wrote all of Anderson's films except this one (Noah Baumbach collaborated with Anderson here), and if the script is missing Wilson's particular childlike touch, his presence as a drawling gentleman smitten with a visiting reporter (Cate Blanchett) makes up for it. His scenes with Murray resonate with the unspoken, and it's a relief that there's no manufactured tension over paternity it's never suggested that Ned is a phony out for Zissou's money (what little he has left).

As always, Anderson goes in for precise symmetrical compositions, with people framed dead center between bookshelves or doorways. The artifice here is a little self-conscious such as the cut-away views of Zissou's elaborately furnished ship, the Belafonte but never takes you out of the movie. Neither does animator Henry Selick's work with the stop-motion sea creatures, clearly not meant to look photorealistic. At heart, The Life Aquatic is a cartoon inhabited by three-dimensional people with adult problems. There are the usual unaccountable touches that somehow feel right, like the Team Zissou member (Seu Jorge) who croons David Bowie songs in Portuguese a restful sound or the blue highlights in Anjelica Huston's hair, or the three-legged dog left behind by some Filipino pirates, or Willem Dafoe as an inept German shipmate who loves Zissou like a father and resents the intrusion of (possibly) a real son.

The problem, as with Wes Anderson's other films, is how to sell it to the masses (especially The Life Aquatic, which at $50 million is Anderson's most pricey endeavor to date). The commercials emphasize Bill Murray's deadpan wit and some broad humor, but moviegoers will find Murray playing a near-dislikable character, a blowhard too used to getting his own way to notice that not everyone shares his devotion to himself. And the humor here is bone-dry, without even the surefire sight gags of the otherwise rather glum Royal Tenenbaums. Yet Murray triumphs here by being true to Zissou's melancholia, and so does Anderson.

'The Life Aquatic' is an odd, entrancing creature that of course got overlooked at the crowded holiday multiplex and at awards ceremonies, but its appeal, I think, will be more timeless than that.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11325&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/09/07 18:16:52
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User Comments

7/24/14 Evil Robot Like Big Lebowski, trusts you to see humor without "laugh now" cues. Better film for it. 5 stars
3/04/14 Mallatrinho Esteban was EATEN. 5 stars
6/06/13 Robert Great film, misunderstood by many. Its absurd and has a lot of heart. 5 stars
3/03/13 Langano Love Wes, but this one is a swing & a miss. 2 stars
9/29/12 roscoe Bad and absolutely not funny, entertaining, or adventurous 2 stars
5/21/09 Alex greate movie plot the filming the effect the colors incredible the MUUUUUSIC 5 stars
1/04/09 YMC You'll get the jokes the 2nd time around esp after you've watched some scuba diving movies. 5 stars
12/19/08 brian DJ says "You need intelligence to appreciate it." I belong to MENSA and hated it. 1 stars
11/20/08 Mike You won't like it if you're close-minded or ignorant. Otherwise have fun. 5 stars
11/18/08 Matt C. I don't like movies with so few likeable characters. Quirky=good. Nonsympathetic=bad 3 stars
11/02/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 5 stars
9/30/08 Colin this movie is amazing 5 stars
8/26/08 DJ Best movie of 2004 by a mile. You need intelligence to appreciate it however. 5 stars
5/30/08 telkontar Hated the lack of humor, but was thrilled that I kept watching about 80% through. Strange. 4 stars
5/28/08 Ian I saw it a while ago and fell asleep, but I gave it another go and totally loved it 4 stars
5/24/08 ej Truly one of my top ten movies ever--a bit quirky for most tastes it seems 5 stars
5/19/08 Leanne i've decided that this is my favorite film that i've seen in my entire life. incredible. 5 stars
5/06/08 Ash one of the funniest/best movies ever 5 stars
4/19/08 Andrea its a great wes andreson film but you have to like strange movies 5 stars
3/10/08 brew HORRIBLE!! 1 stars
1/26/07 Tamara D. Leonard :::SNORE::: 1 stars
1/10/07 Jake This movie was really strangely amusing... 5 stars
11/03/06 MP Bartley Does Anderson ever really care about his characters or just their quirks? 3 stars
10/06/06 Dave Wyatt Possibly the Greatest Film ever made. Good in the same way as Jim Jarmusch 5 stars
9/27/06 steve their will never be another one like this one, truly great 5 stars
6/04/06 megan not good at all 1 stars
2/20/06 Jim Odd, but worth sticking with. 4 stars
1/17/06 Naka About 1/4 as good as it should have been. :( 3 stars
11/27/05 Will We rented this movie based on a "friend's" recommendation and now we know who not to listen 2 stars
7/11/05 Tom Benton Beautiful, funny, highly artistic, but ultimately confused. 4 stars
7/07/05 Charlie Very funny, except the ending sucked. I thought this was supposed to be a comedy! 4 stars
6/29/05 jim young This movie suckes the big one. glad I did not pay to see it. but my time is still gone. 1 stars
6/29/05 mwildema How horrible can something be? 1 stars
6/15/05 R from the makers of Obligatory Drug Use comes: Quirky Direction - you can't ALWAYS be funny. 1 stars
6/13/05 E-FUNK Genious. Anderson's films get better upon every release. I can watch this over and over. 5 stars
5/30/05 Mckrob fantastic! I want to see it again... 5 stars
5/27/05 Dan What the fuck did I just watch? 2 stars
5/18/05 Cindy Sheeks EXTREMELY quirky. You gotta like that kind of film to enjoy this one. 3 stars
5/16/05 ELI Liked it a lot better the 2nd time. Love the 3 legged doggie! 4 stars
5/12/05 mitch a tad overlong and a bit underdeveloped, expect to see sights unseen in an Anderson movie. 4 stars
4/18/05 Renita Long bill murray rocks 4 stars
4/05/05 Daniel So many little things to like. I loved it every time. 5 stars
4/02/05 Ben Richardson The best film I've seen in a long time. I would highly recomend this movie to everyone 5 stars
3/29/05 shreif elassaly 5 stars
3/24/05 malcontent rushmore is still Anderson's high watermark, but this one is quirky galore 4 stars
2/28/05 Graham I hate to be smug and say people are too dumb to see the pulsing emotion... and yet... 5 stars
2/13/05 Nathan Wilhite Probably will grow on me just like Wes Anderson's others 4 stars
1/11/05 clarance the cobra see it just for dafoe...fucking great! 4 stars
1/11/05 Abbath Engrossing setting, very quirky but always entertaining. 5 stars
1/10/05 jeff garbage. unique in a baaad way. 1 stars
1/09/05 bernard Worst movie ever. Stupid moronic meaningless 1 stars
1/09/05 pin It won't make the studio happy - Too sublime for mainstream 5 stars
1/08/05 burton miller marvelous, bizarre, unique 5 stars
1/07/05 Lucas Stenz best American film of 2004 5 stars
1/07/05 Daniel I hate Owen Wilson and still love the movie 5 stars
1/04/05 Dunce Some good moments but the story dragged. Dafoe's character and performance were brilliant. 3 stars
1/03/05 KingNeutron Once again Murray makes it look effortless; only problem was, all fish looked FAKE. 4 stars
12/30/04 Titus Holy disjointed and pointless movie Batman! Anybody know the Phantom Editor? 2 stars
12/29/04 Vince I think i like it as much as Rushmore. 5 stars
12/29/04 Landshark rich in depth and detail, teeming with curiosities 5 stars
12/28/04 harold unbelievably clever, hilarious 5 stars
12/28/04 burton miller bizarre, dramatic, unpredictable, excellent 5 stars
12/27/04 carleton so fine, clever, hilarious, great acting, touching, colorful 5 stars
12/26/04 nick2k definately not co-written by owen, but still great from beginning to end. & theres action! 5 stars
12/25/04 ajay my least favorite wes anderson movie. hopefully the next one's better. 3 stars
12/23/04 jcjs gees, could've been great...lacking something 3 stars
12/16/04 FrayLo glad i saw this for free...it was quite forgettable. 2 stars
12/15/04 raivan354 SUCKS ALL ASS, not funny, BORING as drying paint 1 stars
12/07/04 Ray Pretty cool 5 stars
12/06/04 adam it was great, great wes anderson flick with some good action fans will not be dissapointed 5 stars
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  10-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 10-May-2005



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