The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (0/10)

by Tony Medley

“There was never a horse that couldn’t be rode;

There was never a man that couldn’t be throwed.”

If I ever doubted that truism, I do no more. After seeing Mike Leigh’s I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead earlier this year, I thought I had seen the nadir of moviemaking art. But I had not reckoned with Wes Anderson, who directed, wrote (with Noah Baumbach) and produced (with Barry Mendel and Scott Rudin) The Life Aquatic’.

Last year Bill Murray (Steve Zissou) received so many huzzahs for Lost in Translation that he was actually nominated for the Academy Award as Best Actor! All the critics, save me, raved. All he did was look bored. I could do that. That’s Murray’s shtick. No emotion. Look bored. Woodenly deliver lines. People buy it. They think he’s acting. They apparently think he’s great. I think he’s boring with no emotion and delivers his lines woodenly. That’s what he does here. The script makes no sense whatever. Murray has a cast of mixed quality. The main supporting actors are Kate Blanchett (Jane Winslett-Richardson), and Owen Wilson (Ned Plimpton), but he also has some pretty good actors in lesser roles, Anjelica Huston (Eleanor Zissou), Willem Dafoe (Klaus Daimler), and Jeff Goldblum (Alistair Hennessey). They are all wasted in this turkey.

I must admit that Owen Wilson is an enigma to me. He has been in so many terrible movies that they are now beyond counting. The only film I’ve ever liked in which he appeared was The Big Bounce, a film that was released earlier this year, was in the theaters for a week or two and went directly from there to oblivion. I liked it and I liked Wilson. But for that, his movies have been awful. While he apparently still gets casting calls, with The Life Aquatic’ he has hit the bottom of the barrel. I like the guy, but he needs a new agent or better judgment.

This is about a Jacques Cousteau-type boat that goes looking for a shark that ate one of Steve’s friends, sort of a takeoff on Moby Dick, one of history’s more boring books that was made into one of history’s more boring films in 1956, while Steve films the quest. Maybe, you might think, we’ll see some good photography and beautiful fish. Think again. There is not one live fish in this film. All the fish are computer generated.

The lines seem computer generated, too. Just as an example, Steve is talking to Ned (both think that Ned could be Steve’s son) and asks (woodenly), “Are you finding what you’ve been looking for (beat, beat, beat, beat) out here with me?” The ineptness of the delivery of the line gets, well, lost in translation. You had to be there. Trust me when I tell you that I don’t soon expect to hear a worse delivery of a bad line.

It’s not a movie for children, either, because the “f” word is used copiously. If I had a rating lower than zero, this one would get it.

December 6, 2004

The End