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Movie Review: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Alternate Title: Deep Sea Doo-Doo

Story: What a pile of pretentious, smug doo-doo! In the midst of compiling my Best and Worst Film list of 2004 I was dismayed to find that I could only put nine really bad films on the list. Well, thankfully after seeing this junk I have an even 10.

The very talented director and writer Wes Anderson struck out this time. I loved his last film The Royal Tenenbaums but as my movie buddy said to me as we were exiting the theater "They all must have been smoking pot to do a film like this."

The story is a sort of spoof of a Jacques Cousteau type character and documentarian. A weary and broke oceanographer is making his 12th film with a rag tag crew of misfits. They are searching for the giant shark that ate his friend and partner. After about 25 minutes I realized (and was disappointed) that not much was going to happen.

We see sight gags and pratfalls (I laughed), interesting technical stuff (perhaps Anderson spent too much time on technique and not enough on the story) and vignettes that tire very quickly.

All of the characters are quirky but we never get to care about them. Bad storytelling combined with bad character development leaves the viewer with a rotten fish tale. Phew!

Acting: The great cast drew me to this film but I left with a bad taste in my mouth. Bill Murrary had a few shining moments but the rest of the time just seemed smug. Cate Blanchett's role was unimpressive. Angelica Huston seemed like she was on Quaaludes the entire film. Owen Wilson has played this same role way too many times -- it is getting old. Willem Dafoe's character had the best possibility of being developed but it never happened and Jeff Goldblum (who does not get enough roles these days) while always nice to see did not have much to do. And finally, the very talented, ubiquitous actor Michael Gambon had some of the best lines and delivered with his usual fine style.

Predilection: I like Wes Anderson and it had a great cast.

Critters: Lots of dogs, including a three legged one, several cats and lots of funny digital fish creations.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: An original score by David Bowie sung in Portuguese.

Theater Audience: About twenty people (mostly guys). Everyone but us bolted out of their seats at the pictures' end. I think everyone was happy to leave and not have to sit through the credits.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 2

Drift Range: I drifted quite a bit. Bud Cort (Harold Maude) plays a schlubby insurance stooge who gets kidnappedin the film. I kept thinking about how much I liked the film Harold and Maude and how much I hated what I was watching.

Squirm Scale: 2 -I squirmed because this film made me uncomfortable as I watched it go down the tubes before my eyes.

Predictability Level: Who cared?

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: NO!

Nit Picking: I think my above mentioned words cover most of what was annoying about the film. Why belabor the point?

Big Screen or Rental: Neither. Michael Gambon has been entertaining us for 30 years. Here are some of his films to rent: Being Julia, Harry Potter the Prisoner of Azkaban (Dumbledore), Charlotte Gray, Gosford Park, Sleepy Hollow, The Insider, Dancing at Lughnasa, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and A Dry White Season.

Length: Too long at less than two hours.