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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson)

Life Aquatic

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, Wes Anderson)

Wes Anderson fans are no doubt rejoicing over the latest quirky, colorful comedy from the hipster-film king. After all, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou stars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Anjelica Huston, and has sight gags aplenty along with the requisite witty one-liners. What it doesn’t have, that Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums did, is a heart.

Bill Murray, who may be his generation’s most talented comedian, stars as Steve Zissou, a Jacques Cousteau-like oceanographer/filmmaker who leads a team of Devo-hatted minions (not surprising since Mark Mothersbaugh contributed music to the score) on a quest for the “Jaguar Shark” that ate his partner. Anjelica Huston is his wife, the brains of Team Zissou, Willem Dafoe is Klaus, whose daddy issues come to the forefront with the appearance of Owen Wilson as Ned, who may or may not be Steve’s son. Jeff Goldblum is hilarious as usual as a competing oceanographer, and Cate Blanchett shows up several months pregnant and looking as pretty as she ever has, playing a journalist writing a story on Steve’s quest.

Even more than Anderson’s other films, The Life Aquatic is one for those who fancy themselves as film geeks, while music geeks will adore the soundtrack. There are laughs aplenty in this movie, but what’s frustrating is the fact that Anderson’s past films have managed to weave some real emotion into the utterly ridiculous situations he creates, almost like an American Pedro Almódovar. Here, it almost seems like he’s trying to avoid real sentiment. Perhaps it’s just that Anderson, still a young man, is trying to write a film about a man dealing with aging. Perhaps it’s simply that Owen Wilson did not co-write this film with him (Noah Baumbach is credited with the co-writing).

The Life Aquatic is certainly funny, and it’s not a bad movie. It just doesn’t live up to the hype, and more importantly, doesn’t live up to what we have seen Anderson do. But I’m sure there will still be plenty of devoted fans claiming that the rest of us “just don’t understand.”


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