The Life Aquatic, with Steve Zissou (2004)

by | Jun 2, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Life Aquatic, with Steve Zissou (2004)

Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Studio: Touchstone Pictures/The Criterion Collection
Video: 2.35:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Audio: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, DD stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary by Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach;
Documentary “This Is an Adventure;” “Mondo Monda” Italian talk show
with interview with Anderson & Baumbach; Interview with composer
and Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh; Ten David Bowie songs song in
Portuguese; Intern video shot by actor and real-life intern on the
feature Matthew Gray Gubler; Multiple interviews with the cast and crew
behind the scenes; “Starz on the Set” behind-the-scenes featurette; Ten
deleted scenes; Behind-the-scenes photos and original artwork;
Theatrical trailer, whew!
Length: 118 minutes
Rating: **1/2

After both Anderson’s The Royal Tannenbaums and Bill Murray’s perfect
role in Lost in Translation, hopes were high for this new effort. 
Unfortunately it turned out like an underwater Royal Tannebaums with
Murray replacing the perfect role Gene Hackman had in that one, and the
laughs coming few and far between and all strained at that. Famous
oceanographer and documentary film-maker Zissou is a parody of Jacques
Cousteau. His ship (fold-out poster provided) is even named the
Belefonte. Calypso – get it?  Angelica Houston is his estranged
wife, Cate Blanchett a pregnant journalist on board, and Owen Wilson
playing a more subdued role than normal as Zissou’s previously-ignored
and suddenly-turned-up probable son.

There are some good throwaway bits such as the little red caps Zissou
makes all his crew wear, the female assistant who always happens to be
topless, the put-upon interns who have to carry all the heavy equipment
around, Zissou having his capucinno no matter what.  Jeff Goldblum
as the wealthy previous husband of Zissou’s wife and Willem Dafoe as a
boot-licking German crewmate are fun. But a number of the complications
which thwart the team’s search for the giant Jaguar Shark who killed
his right-hand man (a Moby Dick-like quest) are too realistic or brutal
to be humorous. They include pirates, kidnapping and wild-west-style
shootouts. And Zissou’s late-mid-life crisis gets critically boring.
The story seems to splinter into a dozen different directions at once.
The two-DVD set’s extras may be the funniest thing about this whole
production since they are so over the top. Who needs or wants, for
example, video performances of the actor who plays a crew member
(always found singing and playing his guitar on the bow of the ship or
someplace equally picturesque) singing ten complete David Bowie songs
in Portuguese?

– John Sunier


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