By Rob Blackwelder
To understand how completely, contemptibly and cavalierly DreamWorks has gutted the Arabian legend of Sinbad for its every-cliché-in-the-book animated adaptation "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," all you need know is one line of dialogue, delivered by the hero in a feeble attempt at outdated hip-hop dialect:
The fact that this line is delivered by an appallingly miscast Brad Pitt as the voice of a Santa-Monica-beach-bum-looking Sinbad only makes it worse.
Other dialogue doozies in this wholly Hollywoodized animated adventure, which is ethnocentrically stripped of even the slightest hint of its Middle-Eastern basis material, include:
"You catch that last move? Pretty cool, huh?" (during a sword fight).
"Yeehawwww!" (while using a shield as a snowboard -- yes, you read it right, snow in a Sinbad story).
"OK, I'm officially creeped out!" (upon seeing the eerie realm of Eris, the goddess of chaos who spends the movie throwing obstacles in Sinbad's path).
And during a tedious, flirty-antagonistic battle-of-the-sexes exchange between Sinbad and his childhood best friend's beautiful fiancée (uh-oh!) who has stowed away on his ship: "Ooooo...Men!" and "Of all the ungrateful...Grrr!"
If such insipid quotes aren't by themselves enough to put you off seeing this cartoon catastrophe, perhaps I should also warn you of the flimsy plot and inconsistent animation.
Having turned Sinbad the sailor into a supposedly charming, valiant pirate -- who nonetheless shows no trace of honor until the last reel -- screenwriter John Logan ("Gladiator," "Star Trek: Nemesis") concocts a "legend" about a special-effects-laden Book of Peace, "the world's most valuable object," which Sinbad tries to steal while it's being transported by ship from one ancient city to another for no explored reason.
Upon discovering the book's protector is his old pal Prince Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), our handsome anti-hero backs off -- only to be framed when the book really is swiped by Eris (Michelle Pfieffer), who is nothing but a seductive, shapely, ethereal rip-off of "The Little Mermaid" villainess Ursula.
Sinbad is scheduled to be executed for the crime, but noble, trusting Proteus steps forward to take his place (in prison and on the executioner's block if need be) so his swashbuckling boyhood friend can try to find and return the book -- which apparently keeps "the 12 cities" (whatever they are) from falling into ruins. Mariana, the feisty fiancée with the uninspired voice of Catherine Zeta-Jones, isn't so credulous and tags along to make sure Sinbad keeps his word. (And it's a good thing too, because the rat was fixing to set sail for Fiji and let Proteus's head roll.)
Much adventure ensues, of course, but the only part of it worth mentioning is a sequence in which Marina must save Sinbad's ship from disaster when his crew is seduced into a stupor by the song of Sirens, which are stunningly computer-animated as liquidy feminine forms that arise from the sea.
But even though this is a picture aimed at children who, in all likelihood, are unfamiliar with the Greek legend of Odysseus (there are no Sirens in "The Arabian Nights"), co-directors Tim Johnson and Patrick Gilmore never bother to explain what's happening in this purloined sequence.
Much of "Sinbad's" CGI animation elements -- including constellations that come to life, the ship bobbing on the realistic water, and wave-like sand dunes rising and falling in Eris's mysterious domain -- are individually impressive. But they don't convincingly sync up with the majority hand-animated elements of every scene (modeled in the same pointy-jawed style as DreamWorks' "The Prince of Egypt"). And the directors are not consistent in their use of such computer imagery -- sometimes the sea is photo-realistic CGI, other times its hand-drawn.
Having hopefully convinced you that "Sinbad" is all bad, I'll end this review with the movie's two lines of dialogue that actually did make me laugh, in part because they stood out as being incongruously risque:
"Where'd he get the carrots?" complains one of Sinbad's scallywag crew when seasickness gets the better of the ship's slobbering "comic relief" mastiff mascot.
And when the ship is suddenly surrounded by ice at the interfering hands of Eris, Sinbad tells a sailor whose chest is showing signs of the cold, "Get a shirt on before you poke someone's eye out!"
Run time: 86 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 2nd July 2003
Box Office USA: $26.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $26.3M
Distributed by: DreamWorks SKG
Production compaines: DreamWorks Animation, DreamWorks SKG
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 66
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Tim Johnson
Starring: Brad Pitt as Sinbad, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Marina, Michelle Pfeiffer as Eris, Joseph Fiennes as Proteus, Dennis Haysbert as Kale, Timothy West as Dymas, Timothy West as Rat, Raman Hui as Jin, Chung Chan as Li, Jim Cummings as Luca, Conrad Vernon as Jed, Andrew Birch as Grum / Chum, Chris Miller as Tower guard
Also starring: Catherine Zeta Jones
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