Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for Adventure Action, some mild Sensuality and brief Language
Directed by: Tim Johnson & Patrick Gilmore
Written by: John Logan
Voices of: Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert & Adriano Giannini
Throughout the years, DreamWorks has proven itself to be a nice alternative from the familiar animated Disney fare. DreamWorks Animation cut its teeth with films that were slightly edgier humor than many would initially expect in family movies. They are also notable for taking more risks with original properties (SHREK, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, KUNG FU PANDA) that usually turn out well. When all is said and done, DreamWorks Animation has earned a reputation as (mostly) reliable source of solid entertainment. However, they still have their fair share of duds. 2003’s SINBAD isn’t horrible, but definitely winds up on the lower end of their movie catalog. This film didn’t go as planned for anybody really. Though advertising was everywhere (including kid’s meal toys, action figures, and a bombardment of commercials), SINBAD never really seemed to find its audience. The film was largely ignored in 2003’s summer movie season (with stiff competition from the likes of FINDING NEMO and TERMINATOR 3) and received mixed response from critics. This box office fiasco lost the studio about 125 million (resulting in traditional animation being completely abandoned by DreamWorks). LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS is an okay piece cartoon for kids, but that’s about all it is.
Sinbad is a heroic pirate sailing the seas, confronting monsters, and going on many perilous adventures. When he runs afoul of Eris, the goddess of Discord, Sinbad finds himself on his most dangerous quest yet. Eris steals the valuable Book of Peace and frames Sinbad for the crime. In order to save his friend’s life as well as his own skin, Sinbad sets out on the wide ocean on a to retrieve the stolen Book of Peace. Along the way, he confronts many obstacles including freaky CGI monsters, dangerous environments and all of the powers of Eris.
SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS has a pretty basic story that serves as an excuse for a rinse, lather repeat formula. Sinbad sails around, characters bicker amongst themselves and then encounter a monster. This process winds up repeating itself four times before the film is over. This is also a definite instance of traditional animation dying out as CGI has clearly been blended with 2D designs. The effect looks good in some areas, but not so much in others. A giant squid-like monster and a giant bird both have pretty lame designs compared to the rest of the creatures and environments. However, an encounter with sirens is awesome (serving as the best scene of the entire film). Eris is also beautifully animated.
The biggest problem with SINBAD comes in the voices…mainly Brad Pitt. While Sinbad is typically characterized as a legendary strong-headed hero, there’s definitely less of a timeless feel to DreamWork’s interpretation of the character. Brad Pitt plays Sinbad as Brad Pitt. He’s a smart-ass with a lot of one-liners and a strong appeal to the sole female character. It’s very distracting when you’re watching a scene full of mythical creatures and you here a line like “Pretty cool, right!” or “That’s why you don’t let women drive.” Catherine Zeta-Jones is suitable enough as Marina, but doesn’t serve too much of a purpose other than being a love interest for Sinbad. The best casting decision comes in Michelle Pfeiffer as Eris, who serves as a memorable villainess. Oh, and there’s also Spike, a slobbery dog sidekick that becomes downright insufferable.
SINBAD has edgy sensibilities (clever adult humor, more risk-taking, etc.) that DreamWorks is known for, but also falters under a scrambled mishmash of ideas that don’t necessarily work. The traditional animation looks stunning, but the CGI is cheap and doesn’t fit well into the film. A couple of the monster encounters are cool, but its by-the-number gets tired before the credits roll. There are good things to appreciate in SINBAD as it’s a slight step above a lot of mediocre garbage that you see passed off for colorful family entertainment, but that’s about the nicest thing that can be said about this film.