"Watch it with no volume and it's a four-star effort."
It doesn't seem like all that long ago that we were heralding Dreamworks Animation as the next Disney. What with Shrek dominating the multiplexes (as well as earning the first ever Academy Award for Animated Feature, an honor you just KNOW the Mouse House wanted for itself) it looked like the Dreamworks vs. Disney Brawl would propel feature-length animation into some new renaissance. Alas, just the opposite has happened.Since the star-making appearance of Shrek, the Dreamworks Animation folks have seemed content to adhere to Disney's well-traveled formulae. Last summer's Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was suitably adorable, yet seemed more like a film Disney would have cranked out circa 1982. Dreamworks' second post-Shrek release is Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, a predictably colorful and fitfully entertaining Heroic Epic Melange that seems rather closely related to Disney's two most recent efforts: Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. (Remember those?)
As far as that vaunted clash of animation titans we were all predicting, the end result seems to be a whole lot of copying what can't be improved upon. Instead of the each studio trying to one-up the other with each successive feature, the pair are now happy just to tread water side-by-side. The end result is a series of movies that dazzle the eye while boring the brain.
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is not an awful movie, but one can't help but feel disappointed by a movie so amazingly COOL to look at that's also kind of a chore in every other regard. The plot is your prototypical "Hero's Quest for Item A brings him into contact with Perils B, C and D before vanquishing Villain X". There are of course the requisite sidekicks, cuddly pets and sassy lil love interests to contend with. Plot-wise, this one's nothing new.
While the big-name voice cast (Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Catherine Zeta-Jones) acquits itself reasonably well and John (Gladiator) Logan's screenplay capably delivers a few funny moments, there's simply no spark here. Aside from the staggeringly slick animation designs, Sinbad offers meager returns on your box office investment.
To focus on the positive: wedged haphazardly into the film are a handful of truly impressive action sequences. The opener, in which Sinbad and his crew battle a massive sea monster, seamlessly blends traditional animation with CGI magic and the result is a really cool four minutes of flash and action. Similarly, an third act escape from a giant snowbird proves to be a whole lot of fun.Unfortunately there's a whole lot of down-time in between the collection of moments that deserve your attention. It's painfully clear that the animators earned their paychecks on this project; if you're looking to lay some blame for Sinbad's failures, look to whomever greenlighted the cockeyed and frankly dull narrative.