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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Who's Bad? Sinbad
by Frank Wilkins

In their efforts to connect with an ever-finicky audience, today's animated films face a tough task. With the explosion of higher-resolution video games and snappier computer-generated film features in recent years, the bar of entertainment expectations is raised exponentially with every passing season. There once was a time when fantastic animation alone could wow an audience into overlooking an uninspired story. Well, the times they are a changin'! While Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas incorporates top-notch animation with some dazzling adventure sequences that will really knock your socks off, it's the tale that drags down the whole experience.

As the film opens, we meet Sinbad (voiced by Brad Pitt), a rogue pirate who unsuccessfully attempts to steal the Book of Peace from Proteus, the Prince of Damascus (voiced by Joseph Fiennes). Proteus is returning the book to Syracuse so that order in the world can once again be restored. We learn that Sinbad and Proteus were once childhood friends, but a different "career" path chosen by Sinbad led the two apart for many years.

When Eris, the wispy, shape-shifting goddess of chaos (voiced with passion by Michelle Pfeiffer), actually does steal the Book of Peace, Sinbad gets blamed for the theft. Proteus draws upon his childhood bond with Sinbad and gallantly offers his own imprisonment. He asks the Council to give Sinbad a chance to rescue the sacred book and return it to its rightful place.

The story's set-up and concurrent dialogue to this point seem  laborious and overly detailed. Most kids in the theater quickly became restless and I feared that a toddler mutiny would break out at any moment. But it's almost as if the filmmakers themselves suddenly realized their heavy handedness and the action quickly picked up about 20-30 minutes into the film.

On the journey to retrieve the Book of Peace, we learn that Marina (voiced by Catherine Zeta-Jones), the fiancée of Proteus, has stowed away aboard the ship to ensure that Sinbad fulfills his mission. It quickly becomes obvious that the male vs. female barbs between the two will eventually turn amorous. While it's a noble effort by writer John Logan to hijack the Disney template-to-success and have the rock-hard, lantern-jawed Sinbad fall in love with the doe-eyed and overly shapely Marina, I don't think kids are too interested in seeing the two snuggle and kiss quite so much. And let's not forget the target the film's target audience!

At this point the action really begins to pick up as Sinbad and Maria encounter mysterious sirens, the Realm of Chaos, a frightening giant squid and of course, the evil Eris, all bent on preventing Sinbad from reaching the Book of Peace.

There's no question about how masterful the Dreamworks animation team is in creating dazzlingly eye-popping sequences. As was the case in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, in Sinbad, they combine traditional cell animation with computer-generated backgrounds to produce a magnificent blend of mesmerizing eye candy. But when it's all said and done…who cares? Ingenious animation alone no longer captures my heart. I need something like Shrekwhere Dreamworks found a way to blend great animation with an intriguing heartfelt storyline.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is adequate, but not ample entertainment for the family. Small parts show promise, but as a whole, it never seems able to completely fill its sails.

I'll admit I'm not very familiar with the Arabian Nights legend nor with the story of Harryhausen's The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), but that shouldn't really matter here. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas should stay afloat on its own merits as well as establish an identity unique enough to distinguish itself in the ocean of ever-increasing animated feature films. It does neither.

(Released by Dreamworks SKG and rated "PG" for  adventure action, some mild sensuality and brief language.)

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