a critiQal film review Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

Plot: An Arabian sailor named Sinbad (Pitt) is on a quest to find the Book of Peace, a mysterious artifact that Eris (Pfeiffer) has ultimately framed him for stealing. If he fails on this quest, his childhood friend Proteus (Fiennes) will take Sindbad's death penalty.

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  • ...this animated film should stand up to multiple viewings, thanks in part to Michelle Pfeiffer's voicing of Eris, but the too-pat ending may get annoying.

If you’ve seen Antz, The Road to El Dorado (2000) or Shrek (2001), you already know that Dreamworks studio can produce a decent animated film – something to rival Disney in that area, actually. But, would they be able to strike gold a fourth time with their newest animated film, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, or would it just be another Prince of Egypt for them?

The character voices always play such a prominent role in animated films, as the right voice can make a movie soar (James Earl Jones as Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King (1994), for example) or bring a movie crashing down (try picturing Sylvester Stallone as Woody Allen’s character in Antz, for instance. Yechh). The folks over at Dreamworks seem to keep this in mind while picking their characters, and continuously do a good job in the selection.

With Sinbad, they’ve gotten some big names too, what with Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Catherine Zeta-Jones all in the mix. Brad Pitt’s arrogant swagger comes through a lot in his voice, and is perfect for the posturing title character of this film. Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn’t fulfill her character’s voice as well, making it almost unrecognizable and not as tough as her character is shown in the film.

Michelle Pfeiffer picks up Catherine’s slack in the voice department, however, as the evil goddess Eris. Michelle seems to really give it everything’s she got for this role, and does an exceptional job making the bad guy (or girl, in this case) seem truly evil.

It’s not really that she tries to make Eris mean or nasty – that would be the easy way out. Instead, she tries to make her seem so above any of these humans she is dealing with that even when the humans think they are winning, the devil-may-care attitude of Eris makes the situation seem hopeless anyway.

The plot follows, shakily, along with the Sinbad fables we’ve all heard so much about. Sinbad does throw in enough of their own storyline to make the story new, but they don’t stray too much from Sinbad as the character we know.

This is a built-in attention getter, since the audience already knows of Sinbad, and movies use this countless times to woo an audience (Just look at sequels for example. The viewers don’t go to the movie because it looks unique, they go to it because they want to see further exploits of characters they already know).

Unfortunately though, the movie eventually boils down to just plain arrogance. Both the hero and the villain are incredibly arrogant, and it’s more of a battle to see who’s king of the hill, and everything else is secondary.

Because of Michelle Pfeiffer’s great voice performance, this battle is over as soon as it begins, but Hollywood has to throw in it’s pat happy ending formula and make the hero victorious in the end. Ah well – such is the fate of a Hollywood film.

A great deal of the film is done with computer animation, rather than the standard hand-drawn formula Disney has made so popular over the years. While even Disney is now drifting towards using some computer animation in their films, they are still trying to keep the hand-drawn formula in the forefront.

Dreamworks seems to be going the other route, putting the computer animation in the forefront, and backing it up with the hand-drawn cels. It’s spectacular to see some of the scenes they are able to create with computer animation in Sinbad, but they need to decide which way they are going to go.

Are they going to keep hand-drawn cels in the majority and compete with Disney, or go full computer animated, and take on Pixar? It seems they are trying to fight for the middleground, and not compete with either. They’ll have to eventually, and it’ll be interesting to see which way they decide to go.

So, is Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas worth the couple of bucks to go rent it? Without even looking at the rest of the film, Michelle Pfeiffer’s voicing of Eris is enough to rent it.

Is it worth buying – in other words, will it hold up to multiple viewings? I’d say yes, although the too pat ending may get a little annoying after awhile.

Go check it out for yourself today – and see why Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is a fourth weapon in Dreamworks fledgling animation arsenal.

But don’t let your egos swell too much, Dreamworks – you’ve still got a ways to go to beat animation giants Disney and Pixar.

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