Review: Sinbad

I thought the previews for the recent animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas looked fun; I figured it wouldn't be a brilliant movie, but I like animation and I like swashbuckling.

Finally got around to watching it tonight, and it was surprisingly good. Charming, and funny, and even fairly exciting. As long as you don't expect it to have anything to do with the Sinbad story, I mean. (As the IMDB puts it, "In the original legend, Sinbad is from Baghdad, not Greece.") Oh, and it doesn't really have anything to do with "the seven seas," either. Details, details.

After I wrote the below comments, I went and looked at Roger Ebert's review, and he pegged it in the first paragraph:

"Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" plays like a fire sale in three departments of the genre store: Vaguely Ancient Greek, Hollywood Swashbuckler and Modern Romance. That it works is because of the high-energy animation, some genuinely beautiful visual concepts and a story that's a little more sensuous than we expect in animation.

Since I've already written my comments, I'll go ahead and post 'em, but the short version is that I agree with Ebert. (But the rest of his review has more spoilers than mine.)

There are some comments below that could be construed as minor spoilers; if you don't want to know anything about the movie going into it, then don't read the rest of this. But I won't give any big spoilers.

The actors are all competent, but aren't anything really special. I've never been much of a Brad Pitt fan, and he does the voice of Sinbad here pretty much exactly like all the other voices of heroes of animated adventure movies; fine but not spectacular. I am usually quite fond of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Joseph Fiennes; all of them are also fine but not spectacular in this.

But the script is good, with a couple of really excellent moments, and the action scenes and special effects are way cool. A really nice fight sequence at the beginning (though since this is a kids' movie, the pirates carefully avoid killing anyone), and lots of great aerobatics all the way through, especially for the crewmember named Rat (voice of Adriano Giannini). The sirens and the snowbird are particularly well-done. In the first half, the mix of computer and live-action animation doesn't quite work for me—the computer animation ends up looking too perfect and polished by comparison—but by around halfway through, the seams stop showing so much.

I do have a few criticisms, but they're minor. The Book of Peace effect at the beginning is pretty but looks a little too much like something out of Myst, and the snowboarding scene is a little goofy, and for that matter a major plot element that helps set the plot in motion is pretty goofy. And there's a moment near the beginning when Proteus reaches to turn Marina around and it really looks like he's grabbing her breast; it becomes clear after a moment that he's reaching past her, but still—entertaining but not really in keeping with the rest of the movie. Oh, and the plot unfortunately follows the all-too-common convention that the very strong female lead stops getting to do anything for a while around the climax, but she's so cool in the rest of the movie that that didn't bother me much. And overall I think the movie gets better and better as it goes on.

It reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean in some ways; probably not as good as that movie, but if you liked Pirates, you might like this, as long as you don't go into it with too-high expectations.

And hey, how often do you get to see a movie featuring Eris?

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