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Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
2003 - PG - 84 Mins.
Director: Patrick Gilmore, Tim Johnson
Producer: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Mireille Soria
Written By: John Logan
Starring: voices of Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert
Review by: Carl Langley
   

Eat your heart out Ken and Ryu
Dreamworks has desperately been trying to keep pace with Disney in their recent stint. Although Dreamworks has customarily suffered from mediocrity in their traditional animation, they have never fallen too far off the wagon to catch up. Their first endeavor was 'The Prince of Egypt,' which received mixed reviews and just when everyone thought they were too far behind, they pocketed a turbo boost from 'Shrek.'

'Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas' is Dreamworks most recent attempt at catching the flying money in the animation world amid the heat of summer blockbusters. The cartoon is up against some fierce competition as it shares the same swashbuckler theme as 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Legend of the Black Pearl,' based on the Disney ride, and moviegoers continue to see animation at its finest with 'Finding Nemo' (a film that is currently swimming towards a $300 million box office gross). Buried under these two well-marketed films is an unwanted hidden treasure. 'Sinbad' may not be dressed completely in CGI animation, but it is naturally handsome and spirited enough to please an avid sketch fan.

The legend of 'Sinbad' is told in the collection of stories from Arabian Nights, which also featured the tales of Aladdin and Ali Baba. The difference in character from the fable to the motion picture has a wide margin. In the original book version, Sinbad was an impudent mercenary from Baghdad, whereas, in the film he is a pirate out of the mythological city of Syracuse. Screenwriter John Logan (who wrote 'Gladiator,' his only noteworthy script out of half a dozen) transforms the rogue of the sea from his Arabian foundation and outlines him with the Greek folklore environment.

In the beginning of this adventure, Sinbad (voice of Brad Pitt) and his crew are in the midst of swindling another ship. Turns out the captain is his childhood friend Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) and he is guarding the priceless, yet powerful the Book of Peace, a tome of boundless worth that protects twelve cities and its citizens. Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), the goddess of chaos, summons a massive tentacle beast on the two ships and beckons Sinbad underwater. She persuades Sinbad to steal the Book of Peace so she can assemble more of a chaotic world.

Sinbad travels to Syracuse, but plans change when Eris steals the book herself and frames him, inducing his sentenced execution in the progress. Proteus believes Sinbad is cleanhanded and offers to stand in his place, allowing Sinbad ten days to travel and retrieve the book from Eris. Along with his right-hand man, Kale (Dennis Haysbert), his slobber-prone mutt Spike, and Proteus’ fiancée, Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Sinbad embarks on a journey to Tartarus, the realm of the dead, to prove his innocence and get back in time to save Proteus.

Marina escorts Sinbad on the trip, which undoubtedly means a love story is in the works. At first the two are constantly at each other’s throats, but after many rescue missions, the two realize their love for one another through peril. The love connection is out of place and does not glue well to the story; the syrupy mess almost takes the enjoyment out of the action. Most children do not watch cartoon movies to view a good romance story and adults will find the chemistry between the two title characters to be lame.

For most of its allotted time, 'Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas' is a thrill ride with its adventure paused occasionally for trembling encounters with unfriendly prodigious monsters. The scene where Sinbad rescues Marina from an enormous snow hawk, sledding down mountains on his shield is rip-roaring. The action sequence brings back fond memories of 'Aladdin,' when the Arabian street rat and his sidekick monkey, Abu, are racing against time on a flying carpet, trying to escape from an underground cave before it erupts. This sequence might be customary, but it still flourishes with stimulation.

The filmmakers obtained an impressive cast for the vocals of its characters. Brad Pitt steps behind the microphone for the first time as the voice of Sinbad and adequately enlivens his cocky spirit. Pitt, in a role originally intended for Russell Crowe, is given many one-liners, such as “Stand by for sushi,” when he heaves an explosive into the mouth of a squid-type beast. These jokes are to keep the adults entertained, and at some points are amusing, but others are unwarranted. You will recognize them immediately.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, coming off her Oscar win for 'Chicago,' fits nicely into the role of Marina, but it is her feminine counterpart that is more engaging. Michelle Pfeiffer lends her voice in the role of Eros and is shockingly convincing. It is easy to tell Pfeiffer is having as much fun as she appeared to be as Catwoman in 'Batman Returns.' The silky-hair saboteur is not a well-liked character and Pfeiffer nails it. For having such distinguishable names, Joseph Fiennes and Dennis Haysbert (most recently seen in Far From Heaven) are criminally underused in supporting roles. It would have been just as suitable to cast two unknowns in these roles.

Directed by Patrick Gilmore and Tim Johnson, the strength of 'Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas' is easily its visual spectacle. Viewers have become spoiled with computer-generated graphics, and while Sinbad blends a little CGI with its hand drawn characters, it is relieving to know that advanced technology is not the only solution for entertainment when it comes to animation. Whereas 'Finding Nemo' is more of an optical wonder by far, 'Sinbad' offers just as much value of adventure.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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