In The Life Aquatic
, 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. Zissou’s 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 Zissou’s son. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for fatherhood, Zissou welcomes Ned--and Ned in turn saves Zissou’s new documentary (in which he seeks revenge on the jaguar shark) in more ways than one.
One of Wes Anderson’s greatest achievements as a director to date has been launching the autumnal melancholy phase of Bill Murray’s 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 doesn’t get to develop Ned much beyond Noble Southerner, and he ends up seeming more like a prop for illustrating Zissou’s emotional development rather than his own man. The Life Aquatic probably won’t be remembered as a great film, but it is still one that no Anderson (or Murray) fan can afford to miss.--Leah Weathersby, Amazon.com
In Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic
, a group of oceanic explorers who call themselves Team Zissou embark on a journey to hunt down the 'jaguar shark' that ate one of their crew members (Seymour Cassel). Determined to avenge the death of his dear friend, team leader Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is melancholic about the journey he's about to make. Meanwhile, financial troubles and nostalgia for his past make Zissou behave like a reckless playboy, an aging softie, and a past-his-prime tyrant. Surrounding Zissou are a hodgepodge of eccentrics--a pregnant journalist doing a magazine feature (Cate Blanchett), an airline pilot from Kentucky who claims he is Zissou's son (Owen Wilson), an emotionally needy European (Willem Dafoe), an acoustic guitarist who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese (Seu Jorge), Zissou's brilliant wife (Anjelica Houston), and her ex-husband who is Zissou's seafaring nemesis (Jeff Goldblum). Clad in baby-blue polyester uniforms, Addidas sneakers, and red stocking caps, Team Zissou is a sight to see. And as their deep-sea adventure takes them into dangerous waters where they are attacked by pirates and dazzled by CGI fish, the group finds magic both in their bonds to each other and in the colourful world around them.
In keeping with Anderson's unique brand of escapist humour, these caricatured characters are nothing short of fascinating. While their lives are extraordinary, they act bored, dwelling on banalities like hurt feelings, jealousy, and loneliness. The more absurd their stories are, the more believable their quirky personalities become. With plenty of hilarious moments offsetting the film's tongue-in-cheek sentimentalism, The Life Aquatic is sure to please seasoned Anderson fans and make new ones of the uninitiated.