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 EN Featured Movie Review

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

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Release Date: December 10, 2004 (NY, LA; wide release: December 25)
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenwriter:
Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Robyn Cohen, Bud Cort, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Wallace Wolodarsky
Genre: Comedy
MPAA Rating: R (for language, some drug use, violence and partial nudity)
Official Website: LifeAquatic.com
DVD/VHS: DVD (Special Edition Two-Disc Set) | DVD

Plot Summary: Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew -- Team Zissou -- set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly non-existant Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou's partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. They are joined on their voyage by a young airline co-pilot who may or may not be Zissou's son (Owen Wilson), a beautiful journalist (Cate Blanchett) assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and Zissou's estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston). They face overwhelming complications including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy. Oscar-nominated writer/director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums") has assembled an all-star cast that also includes Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, and Bud Cort in this wildly original adventure-comedy.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers © 2005
- Television is not that bad, ah?

  My expectations for Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou anticipated what the trailer hinted at: a revenge movie against a shark. That is a fresh and smart idea and sounds creatively zany. Just that it does not have enough going for it: the trailer is better than the movie. Life Aquatic is the big yawn of 2004, a slow, dead fish in need of resuscitation.

 Life Aquatic seems to be satirical of Jacques Cousteauís undersea explorations which were made into documentaries during the 50s until the 80s. If satire, it makes its point at the end with conservational aplomb, otherwise the comparisons are restricted to an undersea explorer who makes documentaries: Bill Murray plays the title character, Steve Zissou, who sees his best friend die on an expedition and vows to avenge the shark that did it (although others are not so sure it was a shark). He and his team will film his journey of vengeance while seeking funding for the project (the irrepressible Michael Gambon of TVís The Singing Detective gets a small part in a Hollywood movie as the producer).

 More a vehicle for Bill Murrayís talents he plays the womanising, self doubting but arrogant, joint smoking explorer who hasnít had a hit documentary for nearly a decade. Murray gets the best character and as usual he is dead pan but to the point that the audience wonít care.

 Director Wes Anderson (who made the laugh-out-loud The Royal Tenenbaums) mostly misfires with the jokes that often get lost in a film making style awry with some predictability and disjointedness. Scenes are long winded and drawn out, and especially talky Ė the movie particularly relies on the uneven success of its dry and sardonic humour. Punch lines of the jokes are so melancholic that the response is less ha, ha, but more so what? The best laugh is the loving parody of Harry Belafonte, and Murray gets in a few good one-liners. 

 Out of place is Cate Blanchett, who plays a reporter investigating the documentary and who is pregnant and makes friends with Zissouís long lost son, played surly by Owen Wilson (there is a very predictable outcome to the father-son relationship; parody or not, it does not work). She appears unsure and uncertain, looking like she is half way between serious dramatic intensity, like her The Aviator and Elizabeth work, and pregnant with bubbling over with a brook of the funnies, as if she is supposed to be funny but falls short of being that. Blanchett is in limbo here, which isnít necessarily a reflection of her acting but is more the tone of the whole movie: water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. For those that like their humour dry and their movies slow they wonít mind.

We would love to know what you think, sound off on the movie message boards and let us know how you liked the movie!

 Photofile

 Trailers

Trailer:
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Internet Trailer:
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TV Spot - 'Revenge':
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Clip 1 - 'The Jaguar Shark':
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Clip 2 - 'Meet Ned Plimpton - Part 1':
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Clip 3 - 'Meet Ned Plimpton - Part 2':
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Clip 4 - 'Renowned Scientist':
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Clip 5 - 'Mutiny on the Belafonte':
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Clip 6 - 'Good Luck Stevezy':
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Clip 7 - 'B-Squad Leader':
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Exclusive Father and Son Featurette:
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