[Screen It]


(2003) (voices of Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones) (PG)

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Animated Action/Adventure: An opportunistic rogue and a resourceful and resilient ambassador clash as they sail the high seas to retrieve a powerful book from the Goddess of Chaos and thus save the life of his childhood friend who's her fiancé.
Sinbad (voice of BRAD PITT), the sailor and opportunistic thief, is looking to steal the powerful Book of Peace that protects twelve cities and their citizens. Along with his pet dog Spike, right-hand man Kale (voice of DENNIS HAYSBERT) and the rest of his crew, he boards the ship carrying the book. Unbeknownst to him, his former childhood friend and current Prince of Syracuse, Proteus (voice of JOSEPH FIENNES), is commanding that ship and won't let the book go so easily.

Little do either of them know that Eris (voice of MICHELLE PFEIFFER), the Goddess of Chaos, also wants the book in order to make the entire world more chaotic. Her intervention allows Proteus and his ship to sail away, so she makes a deal with Sinbad. She'll allow him to live if he brings the book to her in Tartarus.

He agrees and thus arrives in Syracuse, intent on finally getting his hands on the book. Eris decides to have a little fun with him, however, by taking his shape and stealing the book, thus making everyone think he has it. Sentenced to die by the city council, Sinbad can't believe his luck. Yet, it changes when Proteus volunteers to take his place, knowing that his former friend wouldn't let him die over the book.

Given ten days to return it, Sinbad sets sail but plans to go to Fiji rather than Tartarus since he figures the King won't allow his only son to be executed. That doesn't sit well with Proteus' independent and resourceful fiancée, Marina (voice of CATHERINE ZETA-JONES), who's set to marry the prince in an arranged marriage. Although they're like oil and water, Sinbad agrees to find Eris, retrieve the book and save Proteus' life when the Ambassador offers him a large financial reward.

From that point on, they sail the high seas headed for Tartarus and must deal with a variety of potentially deadly obstacles that Eris places in their way, all as Sinbad has a change of heart and eventually begins to fall for Marina.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Most everyone has some sort of seminal event in their lives that leads them to follow a certain career path. One of them for me was seeing a re-release of "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" on the big screen when I was young. Just going to the movies was a big treat, but seeing the fabulous stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen and the fluid and gripping storytelling on display was pure and tasty icing on the cake.

Perhaps someday, someone will look back at "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" and have a similar moment of fond recollection. Presented as a fully animated effort from the folks at DreamWorks, this picture might not be as exhilarating as that earlier work was to me (back before video games, computer special effects and the Internet). Yet, it's still a fairly rousing and entertaining offering for kids that adults shouldn't mind sitting through.

There's action and adventure on the high seas in the form of swordplay, pirates and various encounters with strange and monstrous creatures. The scenes featuring the latter are executed rather well, are the highlights of the offering, and reminded me most of those classic Harryhausen moments.

They'll obviously appeal to young boys (and some girls). Even so, the filmmaking team of directors Tim Johnson (co-director of "Antz") and Patrick Gilmore (making his debut) along with screenwriter John Logan ("Gladiator," "Any Given Sunday") obviously thought it best to throw in a strong-willed and resourceful female character, as well as a resultant love angle, to appease the rest of the girls and everyone else.

For that part of the story, they've borrowed the old "opposites attract" plotline that's fueled romantic comedies for decades and given it a bit of a contemporary flair (for a picture set long, long ago). While the high seas setting is a bit novel for that element, the duo's actions and reactions toward one another are rather familiar (although they bicker, yell and fight, we know they're meant for each other). For the most part, and despite the predictability of it all (especially for older viewers), the gambit works.

It certainly doesn't hurt that Logan's script decently balances such material with the action/adventure moments, or that the vocal performances are quite good. In one corner, we have Brad Pitt ("Ocean's Eleven," "Spy Game") who might not have been my first choice for the part, but nevertheless injects the right nuances into the character to make him appealing and engaging (in a roguish sort of way).

Opposite him is the character voiced by Catherine Zeta-Jones ("Chicago," "America's Sweethearts") who's perfectly cast and similarly imbues her character with the necessary vocal characteristics to make her believable. The likes of Joseph Fiennes ("Enemy at the Gates," "Shakespeare in Love"), Dennis Haysbert ("Far From Heaven," "What's Cooking?") and especially Michelle Pfeiffer ("White Oleander," "I Am Sam") are all solid in their respective roles.

The animation is also first-class and quite pleasing to the eye. Mixing classic hand-drawn work (mainly the characters) with computer-generated, assisted or enhanced animation, the large animation team has delivered a beautiful piece of work. The same held true for the somewhat similarly themed and drawn "Treasure Planet." Only time will tell if the days of old-fashioned animation are numbered (due to the overwhelming success of completely computer-generated offering such as "Finding Nemo"), but hopefully kids and the rest of today's viewers haven't become that jaded yet about the "old school" look.

Despite the characterizations being somewhat stereotypical and the leading characters' interaction feeling a bit familiar and/or recycled, this is still an enjoyable action/adventure tale that most viewers should find to their liking.

While not quite up there with "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" in terms of blowing away and/or making an indelible impression on young viewers (considering what else they've already seen or is available to them), this is nevertheless an often rousing and entertaining effort that captures the spirit of that older film. Accordingly, "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 24, 2003 / Posted July 2, 2003

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