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Saturday, May 24, 2008

THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004)

Writer/director Wes Anderson ’s quirky father & son tales were probably best served within the modest confines of RUSHMORE. His next, THE ROYAL TANNEBAUMS, turned quirkiness into a fetish and never recovered from its midpoint narrative reverse. Quirky to smirky. Now, AQUATIC uses Anderson’s typical deadpan comic manner to chart a second act in the life of a Jacques Cousteau like guru. The film drowns in overproduction, though it’s fun to watch the cast fake technical exposition as they walk thru a cutaway ship. But why bookend the film in pseudo Cannes film fest formal regalia or fumble around with action sequences you can’t handle? Those pirates stop the ship & the film. Yet, in spite of everything, including far too much mugging by the cast (only the great Michael Gambon remains impervious), the third act holds water. My guess is that co-scripter Noah Baumbach was largely responsible for getting this ship safely back to shore.

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