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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

  Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson
Links: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 7.50 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 81st of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Whacky to the max" - a review by pearly

I'm not sure that I "get" Wes Anderson. I mean, I don't mind his films at all, but I certainly don't count myself among the top ten in a list of his all-time biggest fans. I didn't mind The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), but I didn't think much of Rushmore (1998) (though admittedly, it's been a looong time since I saw it, and maybe my memory just needs refreshing). And with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson continues further along the trail of decent, but not particularly special films.

I never used to watch oceanography documentary television of the style produced by Jacques-Yves Cousteau when I was younger, so perhaps part of the mockumentary style of this film was lost on me, but I did find some of it quite funny. Mainly the sight of Bill Murray in a silver wetsuit.

The story goes that Steve Zissou (Murray) is a Cousteau-style ocean explorer, whose best friend is killed by a mysterious previously unknown species which Zissou christens the Jaguar Shark. On his newest mission, Zissou plans to find the Shark and kill it, for the scientific purpose of revenge. Along for the ride is Ned (Owen Wilson), who may or may not be Zissou's son, Jane (Cate Blanchett), a journalist writing a piece on Zissou, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston), Zissou's estranged wife who pops in and out, and Zissou's bedraggled crew, which includes Klaus (Willem Dafoe).

The film oscillates between true to life human drama / comedy bits, and fantastical portions with CGI-based animals and so on (like the Jaguar Shark). I know there doesn't have to be a point to everything, and maybe the only point of this film is to entertain for the time that it is on, but I didn't really fully understand where this story was meant to be headed, and what exactly the meaning of it all was. This bothered me a little, though your response may vary. This is probably the main reason that I didn't fall in love with the film, because it does have a few other things going for it.

For one thing, the cast is cool, with the possible exception of Wilson, who I'm not the biggest fan of (though he is a close friend of Anderson, so the two are bound to be intertwined). Murray is awesome, and Blanchett is great, though it's far from her best work. Dafoe is also a stand-out, with his character's silly German accent, and complete idolisation of Zissou. Another fun thing about the film is the soundtrack, which consists of sometimes interesting, sometimes creepy covers of David Bowie songs in Portuguese and with totally different arrangements (though I, unlike em_fiction found the presence of the Sigur Rós song to be a little out of place in amongst all the Bowie).

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is fun, but not perfect. Let's see what Anderson has for us next.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 15 Apr 2005

"Hooray for Bill!" - a review by em_fiction

With Year Twelve keeping me as busy as a bee, I haven't been able to visit the beloved cinema since Sideways (2004) at the start of the year, but thanks to Easter and the wonderful way in which it extends weekends, I was finally able to catch Wes Anderson's latest treat, The Life Aquatic; one I've been keen on seeing for a while.

After his last adventure which ended in the tragic death of his partner, internationally acclaimed oceanographer and documentarian Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), along with his wacky expedition and film crew, Team Zissou, set off on an expedition to exact revenge on the mythical shark supposedly responsible for his partner's death. Tagging along with Zissou on his voyage, at one stage or another, include his wife (Anjelica Huston), his quirky German sidekick (Willem Dafoe), his arch-rival (Jeff Goldblum), an attractive journalist (Cate Blanchett), and a man who may be his son (Owen Wilson). Together, they encounter what has got to be the most bizarre sea adventure any of them have ever experienced.

Anderson, who's responsible for the quirky and endearing Rushmore (1998), delivers yet another original, witty and hugely enjoyable quirky comedy. His casting is damn near flawless; employing some of his ‘usual’ cast — Murray, Huston, Wilson — as well as some new faces — Blanchett, Dafoe, Goldblum — Anderson creates characters who are lively, animated and perfectly fitted for his trademark quirky humour. Willem Dafoe was a keen catcher of my attention — his portrayal of a slightly nutty German was hilarious, and also a good indicator of how damn fine an actor he is. Cate Blanchett also delivers a wonderful performance as a pleasant British journalist.

The turning point performance, however, do I even have to say comes from Bill, who steals the show completely. His typical bitter sarcastic form is driven to maximum calibre here, so this is definitely not one to pass up on if you're a Bill fan. The man is just so damn funny. Every spoken word, no matter how subtle, left me cracking up so hard that I had to muffle my laughter for the sake of not looking like an idiot in front of the few other people (or stiff, humourless wankers, rather) who were also in the cinema. It's difficult to believe, especially after seeing a film like Lost in Translation (2003), that an actor can re-reach that kind of peak again, but Bill does it so effortlessly and this film just hammers in completely his talent as a comedic performer. This performance matches, if not surpasses, that of his in Rushmore.

Bill's hilarious performance was especially thanks to Anderson and Baumbach's excellent script. The dialogue is inundated with wit, and the way it makes you laugh seems so effortless. There were so many other little things that made the film extra cool: the stop motion animated sea creatures, David Bowie's music played in Portuguese by a Brazillian character, providing the background music throughout the film a là There's Something About Mary (1998), and Sigur Rós's Starálfur, a song and band I'm extremely fond of, used as one of the closers — now that was bloody awesome.

The Life Aquatic is a solid establisher of Anderson's tremendous talent in delivering distinct comic style, and his idiosyncratic filmmaking is now easily recognisable. And as for Bill, well, I haven't really got much else to say except for: go Bill!

em_fiction gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Sat 26 Mar 2005

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 7.50
Lowest rating: 7 (by pearly)
Highest rating: 8 (by em_fiction)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. it is so "freakin" funny

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Nicole on Sat 16 Apr 2005 09:27 #

  2. you are a poo mac nguyen

    A comment from Cornelius on Tue 19 Apr 2005 19:17 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (1 rating)

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