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The Life Aquatic

Genre: Comedy/Drama
Rated: R
Directed by
Released by: Touchstone Pictures

In Short: This seaborne family tale is one of the more visually interesting films of the year, and one of the most bizarre.

If it Quirks Like a Duck…
Something's Fishy in The Life Aquatic
By Andrew Bender

we adore quirk, and Wes Anderson’s previous films (The Royal Tennenbaums, Rushmore) had quirk by the bucketful. Yet, Anderson’s latest, The Life Aquatic, is so quirky as to be indulgent, and it tested even our patience.

It stars Bill Murray as Steve Zissou, a modern-day American Jacques Cousteau who’s spent decades making documentaries of his undersea exploits. Just when his work has lost its spark, in walks Ned (Owen Wilson), claiming to be Steve’s long-lost son. Steve seizes the opportunity to incorporate Ned into his films, boost his ratings and realign his outlook on life. This seems a reasonable premise for a movie, but the pacing may remind you of why you stopped watching Cousteau documentaries; the Life Aquatic moves as aimlessly as a jellyfish.

If you’ve watched a jellyfish swim, though, you know that they’re hard to keep your eyes off of, and that’s the case with this film too. Murray and Wilson are always interesting, and there’s no word for Anjelica Huston and Jeff Goldblum’s performances as Zissou’s wife and a rival explorer; we’d have to invent one meaning neither cloying nor over the top, but hilariously close to both.

Plus, Anderson dispenses enough bait to keep us hooked: brightly colored marine life (courtesy of Henry Selick, the animator behind The Nightmare Before Christmas), tours through the ship in cross-section and lush David Bowie melodies sung in Portuguese (by the Brazilian singer/actor Seu Jorge, of City of God). These remind you that the world of The Life Aquatic is somewhere other than reality – and what a talented filmmaker Anderson is.

Maybe the best summary is this: think of the last nature film you watched. Do you remember the whole thing, or a particular moment? If you’re a moment person, you’ll probably leave the theater immensely sated; otherwise, wait to rent it.

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