It’s never a good sign when the intended audience for a comedy sits stone-solid and unlaughing through the preview premiere, and when the film in question is an animated adventure from DreamWorks, well, the theatre really ought not resemble the Gorgon’s lair one iota. Sinbad
, the studio’s big follow-up to their masterpiece Shrek
, feels like the little animated adventure nobody loved, comprised as it is of part computer-graphic animation (the backgrounds and monsters, which is lovely and challenging) and part traditional cel animation (the main characters), which are flat and two-dimensional and wholly out of place amid the roiling seven seas and vaguely Lovecraftian beasties that make up the favored thief’s nemeses. Judging from the lack of pre-release publicity the film has garnered, DreamWorks knows they have a problem, but Sinbad
has less going for it than a somber marketing push in a summer chock-full o’ adventure (as if there’s any other kind). It must have seemed a can’t-miss proposition: Brad Pitt as the voice of the world’s most famous sailor-cum-brigand, Zeta-Jones as his burgeoning paramour, and Pfeiffer as Eris, the Goddess of Chaos. Anyone who’s seen Wolf
can fall in line with that last one, and Pitt acquits himself admirably as well – Zeta-Jones, too, is no slouch; her Marina has an immensely sexy, DIY streak a mile wide – but taken together and tossed atop a standby story that seems cobbled together from action outtakes, this heroic trio is wasted and flat. Much of the problem stems from DreamWorks’ decision to employ both types of animation. It’s a case of "Waiter, there’s a kraken in my soup" and not enough slam-bang action to take your mind off the obvious failures of the animation. That might be a survivable situation if the story were a corker, but amazingly, even with a wealth of Sinbad lore to choose from, it’s not. The film plods inexcusably, and even the hero’s traditional nonbipedal buddy (in this case a slobbery pit bull) is utterly without charm. DreamWorks has severely banged their collective knee on Sinbad’s scimitar. And the problems here are all the more apparent coming as they do in the wake of Turner Classic Movies' weekendlong tribute to Ray Harryhausen (who turned 83 this past Sunday). Their "Ray Harryhausen Weekend" was worth 1,001 slapdash animated versions of the great tales, and not just because fans got to bask in the full stop-motion glory of a pre- L.A. Law
Harry Hamlin (as Perseus) lopping off Medusa’s noggin in Clash of the Titans
and Kerwin Mathews’ Sinbad battle the world’s biggest Cyclops. Harryhausen’s trio of Sinbad films (7th Voyage of Sinbad, Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger)
remain immensely more satisfying from both a "gosh wow" fantasy film perspective and as a childhood rite of passage. Lodged between the Scylla and Charybdis of summertime action overload and a dodgy script, DreamWorks can’t even come close.