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Bill Murray
as Steve Zissou

Owen Wilson
as Ned Plimpton

Cate Blanchett
as Jane Winslett-Richardson

Anjelica Huston
as Eleanor Zissou

Willem Dafoe
as Klaus Daimler

Jeff Goldblum
as Alistair Hennessey

Michael Gambon
as Oseary Drakoulias

Written by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

Directed by Wes Anderson

Running Time: 1:58

Rated R
for language, some drug use,
violence and partial nudity.



The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou wasn't nearly as entertaining as Wes Anderson's previous films. At times I felt myself wishing I could drift off to the private island Steve Zissou's wife owned and get away from it all.


Steve Zissou is a world famous documentary filmmaker. In his latest adventure, one of his trusted mates is killed by what Zissou calls a Jaguar Shark, heretofore unseen in the world. In order to prove he's not insane, and to get revenge for the death of his friend, Zissou calls his crew together for one last dangerous mission. This time out he brings along Ned who claims to be Zissou's illegitimate child, as well as a news reporter who has got issues of her own. Together they fight off pirates, loot a rival's observation tower, and rescue a three-legged dog.


The Life Aquatic is one of those films I can see critics really liking, but doesn't make any money. It was well acted for certain, but it was very slow and at times very boring. Which, for some reason, is the kind of film a lot of highbrow critics seem to enjoy. They deliberate pacing and attention to detail is nice, but a story that kept me entertained would have been nicer. Granted, I spent an hour standing outside in the rain to go to a preview screening, so I wasn't in the highest of spirits to start with, but I ended up with a decent seat and the crowd up amped up for the movie. But other than a few chuckles here and there, I didn't find anyone really enjoying it.

What was the deal with the claymation underwater creatures? I couldn't quite figure out the point to that. They were cute, but also strange and unnecessary. Anyway, as I said, there were some laughs here and there. Nothing that would bring the house down and have people talking about afterwards, but just a few things that were kind of absurd. Actually I don't think I've ever liked Willem Dafoe more than I did here. His character would alternate from being a tough cookie to being a little girlie man. He wasn't in a lot of the film, but when he spoke, he made me pay attention. Bill Murray has almost perfected these characters where he feels above the situation and almost realizes how strange everything is around him. Owen Wilson and Cate Blanchett were entertaining as the son and reporter, but their accents were strange sounding and distracting.

The story was decent enough, although I never got the true heart of the film. It wasn't just about revenge for a lost friend, or a last stab at glory. There were bits and pieces of both, along with Zissou coming to grips with being a father and losing his wife. But there was never a real consensus on what I was supposed to be feeling or thinking. Some movies work that way, leaving it open to interpretation, but in this case, I would have preferred some help along the way. I don't believe we're supposed to take the movie seriously, but unlike Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, this movie didn't have much for me to hang my hat on. The dialogue was the type where the writers would say things that sounded important but when you broke it down, didn't mean a thing. It's the kind of thing where the writers would like to believe they're smarter and more important than their audience so they write pretentious dialogue in the hopes that no one finds out they're full of crap.


Overall I'd have to say I was a little disappointed with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Filmmakers tend to grow from film to film and with a larger budget and more leeway with the studios, I had hoped Anderson would have given us a stand out film. Instead he seems to have made a film that takes a step backwards. In his mind he might think he's become a smarter filmmaker, but in my opinion, he's getting a little full of himself.

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reviewed 12/10/04

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