The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

"Good"

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou Review


Steve Zissou is a washed-up Jacques Cousteau type suffering from an Ahab complex and middle-age ennui. His long-time first mate has just been eaten by the mysterious (and fictional) jaguar shark, and although his undersea documentaries haven't turned a profit in years, he's setting sail on one last low-budget oceanography adventure to make one last, rather out-of-character nature film -- about hunting down that shark if it's the last thing he does.

Another eccentric, buoyantly melancholy ensemble piece from wonderfully weird writer-director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums"), "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" is thick with the curious comedy of crew conflicts, researcher rivalries, laid-back shootouts with kidnapper pirates, and an outlandish underwater world teeming with colorfully imaginary stop-motion creatures created by Henry Selick ("The Nightmare Before Christmas").

But the movie's driving force is Anderson's signature sense of humor. The underlying (and unspoken) joke of this oddball farce is that it is transparently fake. Besides inventing an ocean full of fantastical life, the film is full of mischievous impossibilities, nonsense science, and cinematography designed to make it amusingly clear that the scenes onboard Zissou's run-down, retrofitted, World-War-II surplus sub-hunter ship are shot on a cut-away soundstage set.

Yet Anderson and his grand cast give the characters a wry sincerity that makes them all the more human against the backdrop of their ersatz surroundings. Bringing his brilliance with humorous despondency to his third Anderson picture, Bill Murray strolls his vessel's half-hallways in a cantankerous but contemplative funk, finding plenty of subtle laughs in Zissou's deeply ironic sadness.

On board for his epic quest -- which gets extremely sidetracked by practical needs (they steal equipment from another oceanographer) and personal problems (this ship should have a staff shrink) -- is a bevy of intrepid talent. The sardonic Owen Wilson (an Anderson regular and frequent co-writer) plays the eager-to-please illegitimate son Zissou never knew he had. Cate Blanchett makes a splash as a can-do pregnant reporter riding along to profile the oceanographer, her childhood hero, and becoming quite disillusioned. Willem Dafoe and Noah Taylor are part of Team Zissou as well.

Making their lives harder are Anjelica Huston, dry and cheeky as Zissou's frustrated wife, and Jeff Goldblum, bringing his brand of quirky cockiness to the role of Zissou's avaricious adversary (in love and science) who seems destined to supplant our anti-hero as the pin-up of oceanography nerds the world around.

The melancholy playfulness that has always been Anderson's style doesn't envelop the viewer in this movie's menagerie of human foibles the way it has in his other films. Although resplendent with nuance and imaginative details, "The Life Aquatic" is a little bit undercooked by comparison.

But the wry, idiosyncratic performances from these sublimely devoted stars keep the plot and the humor sailing charismatically -- if not merrily -- along.



The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Facts and Figures

Run time: 119 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 25th December 2004

Box Office Worldwide: $34.8M

Budget: $50M

Distributed by: Empire Pictures

Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Steve Zissou, as Eleanor Zissou, as Jane Winslett-Richardson, as Klaus Daimler, as Ned Plimpton, as Alistair Hennessey, as Oseary Drakoulias, as Vladimir Wolodarsky, as Bill Ubell, as Pelé dos Santos, as Intern 1, Antonio Monda as Festival Director, as Antonia Cook, as Esteban, as Anne-Marie Sakowitz

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.