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the life aquatic with steve zissou
starring bill murray, owen wilson • directed by wes anderson • comedy/adventure • 2004 • rated r

plot summary: Famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Murray) leads Team Zissou on a mission to find a possibly non-existant Jaguar Shark who he believes killed his partner during the filming of their last documentary. They are joined by a man who believes he's Zissou's son (Wilson), and a journalist who is working on a piece about Zissou (the gorgeous Cate Blanchett).

who should see this movie: Bill Murray fans, Wes Anderson fans, people who like quirky movies.

who should NOT see this movie: People who don't like Wes Anderson or quirky movies.

who steals the show: Don't get me wrong, Bill Murray is the man, but damned if Willem Dafoe's sensitive shipmate Klaus doesn't steal every scene he's in!

merchandising tie-ins we'd like to see: Zissou Adidas sneakers, an Air Kentucky travel bag.

keep your eyes peeled: for Bud Cort (Harold! From Harold & Maude!) as the bond company stooge, Bill Ubell, Seymour Cassel (who played Max Fischer's Dad in Rushmore) as Steve's beloved partner, Esteban, and although it's uncredited, my sources tell me that the gentleman at the opening scene discussion who asks about the scientific purpose of killing the shark? Max Fischer himself, Jason Schwartzman.

soundtrack rating: sorry, but the soundtrack for Rushmore still kicks this movies ass, despite the gorgeous acoustic versions of David Bowie songs, as performed by Seu Jorge, and the absolutely breath-taking use of the Sigur Rós song "Staralfur".

My review is biased 'cause I'm such a huge Wes Anderson fan. I love his quirky, distinctive film style: the way he uses music as such a major part of the movie, the super-stylized shots, the sometimes-unrealistic dialogue he writes (people are never this suave and witty in real-life conversations), but how despite this unreal-ness, you still get a strong sense of real emotion.

This film was a bit of a departure for Anderson as it marks the first time he's written a script with writer/director Noah Baumbach, who did the great 1995 movie Kicking & Screaming. I'm not sure if it was the Baumbach-influence or anything, but this was also the most "action-packed" Anderson movie I've seen to date. Bill has some great ass-kicking scenes in this. And, man, there's a lot of gunfire!

So, even though I loved this film, and even though it's better than most other movies out there, it's still in second place to the classic Rushmore and doesn't quite reach up to its brilliance, in my opinion. I could've done without Anjelica Huston's character, even though she looks unbelievable for a 54-year-old lady (hey, she's the same age as my mom!). Also, what was the point of giving Owen Wilson an accent, especially when he couldn't keep it up throughout the film? Also, (spolier alert) [[when they leave the island and the three-legged dog behind, I got really upset! Dammit, they should've gone back for him!]]

But all in all, I really loved it. It's just as poignant as Rushmore, and perhaps even weighter as it deals with the subject of family. (janice.01.05)


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