(2004)  

Alan:+

Entertainment Weekly:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:



Warning, minor plot points revealed!

This movie was awesome!  Surreal and hilarious.  It was everything I hoped for and more.  I can't wait to see it again and again and again. 

OK, That was my quick review for those of you who need to know what I thought as soon as possible.  I'll try to do that more often in the future so you can know what I think before I get around to the full review.  

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is the new film by Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums.)  Here's the thing about Wes Anderson movies, for me at least, they grow on you.  I tend to like them more and more with each subsequent viewing.  Let me explain using the last film Tenenbaums as an example.  When I first saw the movie in the theatre, I barely liked it.  I didn't think it was anywhere near as good as Rushmore which I liked more after watching it on DVD many more times but also didn't love right off the bat.  However, every time I've seen Tenenbaums since (and I now watch it at least 2-3 times a year) I like it more and more and now believe it to be the best of the Anderson films.  

So basically I'm disclosing this information because the films of Wes Anderson are not like my usual favorites that have me running out of the theatre upon first viewing and insisting that the rest of the world drop what they're doing and join me back in the theatre for the next showing.  I know when I see one of his films that it will eventually become one of my all time favorites, but they are very dense and require multiple viewings to really see and appreciate everything.  I still notice and am delighted by new things every time I watch Rushmore and Tenenbaums and I'm sure The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is going to be the same.  

Even though I really liked this movie I don't think I can say with confidence that it deserves the Second Best Movie of the Year status that I bestowed upon it before I saw the movie.  Rest assured, after I've seen it 5-6 times it will most definitely be the second best film of 2004 but I won't be sure of that until sometime in late 2006 or early 2007.

Assuming the above, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a masterpiece.  It tells the story of oceanographer and documentary film maker Steve Zissou.  A pot smoking, slacker version of Jacques Cousteau who seems to be only barely interested in his life's work and is now on a Moby Dick type mission to find the Jaguar Shark that may or may not exist that ate his friend and partner on their last adventure.  At the same time, Steve meets a man named Ned Plimpton who might be his son.  They both fall in love with a pregnant reporter named Jane who is writing a cover article on Zissou.  Zissou's estranged wife and primary financer, Eleanor has lost interest in being part of the Zissou Society and seems to be rekindling a romance with her former lover and Zissou's (better funded) rival and nemesis.  Zissou's faithful camera man Klaus is jealous of Ned infringing on what he believes is his and Steve's father son relationship (this although they are both obviously pretty much the same age.)  A bond company geek is assigned to supervise the finances of Team Zissou's current mission and the rest of the crew and interns (who are affectionately referred to only as "intern") keep the Belafonte, Steve's research vessel, ship shape to the tunes of Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs.  

Now after a description like that how could you not like this movie?  Oh yeah, did I mention that they get attacked at one point by Filipino pirates?

The special effects for this movie are limited but it should be noted that all the sea creatures encountered are cool little CGI creations that are fantastic and dreamlike.  Also The Belafonte itself is a great effect in that the entire ship is a set that is split down the middle so you can see what's happening in all areas at once.  This gives these sequences a play-like quality and allows us to view nearly the whole cast simultaneously as characters wander around the ship.  

The actors all do a fantastic job.  I will be brief in my praise because they were all so awesome it would take pages to sing their praises.  Bill Murray was as awesome as always as Steve Zissou.  Owen Wilson actually played it straight and did a fine job as Ned Plimpton (although this was the first Anderson film that Wilson didn't co-write with him.)  Cate Blanchett was great as pregnant reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson.  Anjelica Huston is a great part of Anderson's ensemble, this time as Steve's wife Eleanor Zissou.  Willem Dafoe in a rare comic performance was excellent as Klaus Daimler.  Jeff Goldblum did his usual successful Jeff Goldblum thing as Alistair Hennessey.  Michael Gambon was fun as Zissou's lawyer and council Oseary Drakoulias.  Bud Cort, who you probably only remember from the hilarious 1971 black comedy Harold and Maude shows up as the bond company geek Bill Ubell.  Seymour Cassel has a cameo, as he does in all of Anderson's films as Steve's doomed partner Esteban du Plantier.  And Seu Jorge is the troubadour who does all those great Bowie covers as Pelé dos Santos.  (Football fans will know the name is a combination of two Brazilian former superstars of soccer, Pelé and Manuel Francisco dos Santos.)

Should you go see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at the theatre right now?  Yes.  Will you love it immediately?  Maybe.  Should you buy the movie when it comes out on DVD?  Definitely.  Then call me sometime in late 2006 or early 2007 and we can talk about how much we love it together.