Tuesday, May 10, 2005

DVD Tuesday: Blanchett's 'Life Aquatic' - Xoanon @ 21:58 PST
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, director Wes Anderson takes his familiar stable of actors on a field trip to a fantasy aquarium, complete with stop-motion, candy-striped crabs and rainbow seahorses. And though Anderson does expand his horizons in terms of retro-special effects and a whimsical use of color, fans will otherwise find themselves in well-charted waters. As The Life Aquatic opens, Zissou (Bill Murray), a self-involved, Jacques Cousteau-like filmmaker, has just released a documentary depicting the death of his best friend Esteban, who was eaten by some sort of sea creature--possibly a jaguar shark. Zissouís troubles also include his waning popularity with the public, and a nemesis (Jeff Goldblum) who hogs up all the grant money. Hope arrives in the form of Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), an amiable Kentuckian who may be Zissouís son. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for fatherhood, Zissou welcomes Ned--and Ned in turn saves Zissouís new documentary (in which he seeks revenge on the jaguar shark) in more ways than one.

One of Wes Andersonís greatest achievements as a director to date has been launching the autumnal melancholy phase of Bill Murrayís career, starting with Rushmore in 1998, and Murray delivers a similarly comedic yet low-key performance here. Unfortunately, Zissou is one of the few characters in this ensemble to achieve multi-dimensionality. Even co-star Wilson doesnít get to develop Ned much beyond Noble Southerner, and he ends up seeming more like a prop for illustrating Zissouís emotional development rather than his own man. The Life Aquatic probably wonít be remembered as a great film, but it is still one that no Anderson (or Murray) fan can afford to miss. [Order 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Criterion Collection' on Amazon.com Today!] [Order 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Criterion Collection (2-Disc Special Edition)' on Amazon.com Today!]