Toon Talk: Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
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Toon Talk: From the Other Side
Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
A dashing, devil-may-care swashbuckler as the unlikely hero. A lovely damsel in distress. A horde of menacingly mythological creatures to battle. A wickedly manipulative villain to defeat along the course to the proverbial happy ending.
Such are the tenets of the Sinbad legend (or at least of his cinematic heritage, as any fan of Ray Harryhausen’s classic retro trilogy - The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger - can attest). And one could possibly say, as evidenced by their latest release, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, that these may also be the ingredients to the strange brew behind DreamWorks’ animated films as well, albeit peppered with heavy doses of modern sensibilities and low humor, with just a soupcon of mature subject matter.
After five years and as many films (six if you include Aardman Animation’s Chicken Run), I think I’ve finally got a handle (or, at least, got used to) this particular flavor that DreamWorks dishes out, the so-called ‘anti-Disney’ style: characters with rigidly angular features populating a sprawling, plot-heavy story (The Prince of Egypt), at times lost in visually stunning landscapes (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron) while barreling through their episodic adventures (The Road to El Dorado), all the while poking you in the eye with prepubescent jabs of crudeness (Shrek). And, oh, I almost forgot: it’s all brought to you by a stellar, heavily hyped all-star cast (a trend that will continue, for better or worse, with the top-heavy talent roster signed up for next year’s Sharkslayer).
All of these elements are present in Sinbad, a sprawling action fest that, much like its title character, is not without its share of faults. Chief among them is recasting said protagonist as a seemingly heartless thief, a blatant plot device designed to create the conflict needed to give the story some perceived heft, as well as providing a satisfactorily manufactured denouement, but which nearly derails any allegiance to the character from the start. Not helping is the rather blasé vocal performance of Brad Pitt, whose charms, apparently, are grounded in his good looks … certainly not in his voice. (One is only left to wonder what kind of depth Russell Crowe, who was attached to the project early in its development, could have brought to the role.)
The film finds its hero in an overly-complicated plot involving a stolen mystic artifact called the Book of Peace, with a love triangle between Sinbad and his old childhood friend-who-done-good Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) and his fair-yet-feisty fiancé Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones) thrown in for good measure. Stirring the pot is the resident Villainess with a capital ‘V’, Eris, delectably voiced by a wily Michelle Pfeiffer, her most delicious performance since Catwoman.