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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.8%
Average: 10.4%
Pretty Bad: 15.2%
Total Crap: 8%

9 reviews, 71 user ratings

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Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The
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by Lybarger

"Almost gets waterlogged."
3 stars

All of director Wes Anderson's movies have an idiosyncratic charm, but quirkiness alone isn't necessarily a virtue.

Like all of Anderson's previous movies, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou features a great soundtrack mixing Devo stalwart Mark Mothersbaugh's Muzak-like incidental score with well selected pop tunes, a distinctive 70s-influenced visual style and characters who are fighting to make their way in a world that really doesn't and probably never will understand them.

Anderson's current misfit is once revered marine explorer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), who is now struggling to keep his faltering career afloat. The documentaries that once helped fund his quests are now money pits, his ship The Belafonte needs more diligent maintenance, and his wife and all too frequent financial backer (Anjelica Huston) has tired of him.

He's also lost his partner Esteban to an attack from the rare jaguar shark. Zissou is determined to locate and kill the beast. He gets help from an unexpected source when a young fellow named Ned Plimpton (Anderson regular Owen Wilson) announces that he's Zissou's illegitimate son and becomes part of the crew.

The voyage becomes rather perilous because some of the crew can't stand each other, and a nosy disgruntled (and pregnant) reporter (Cate Blanchett) is following everybody around. They also have to deal with a rival explorer (Jeff Goldblum) with better backing, pirates and exotic sea creatures (animated by Henry Selick of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame) that you won't find in an encyclopedia. Who knew crayon fish could be kept as pets?

Anderson's distinctive touch is all over these adventures. His films are loaded with sonic and visual ideas that few others would embrace. One fascinatingly bizarre touch is featuring a Brazilian crew member who serenades the rest of the mariners with Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs. The make-believe sea creatures are oddly reminiscent of anime beasts, and Murray seems to enjoy playing a weary blowhard.

The storyline by Anderson and Noah Baumbach (Kicking and Screaming) seems a little too loose. The narrative takes a while to really kick into gear, and even fantasy films can go too far with suspending disbelief. According to The Life Aquatic, a hero's pistol can hold hundreds of bullets and can help him take out legions of more heavily armed pirates.

The droll wordplay that accompanied Anderson's earlier movies Bottle Rocket and Rushmore is still there. Listen to how Murray introduces Wilson.

On the downside, many of the supporting characters only have an accent or a physical quirk to identify them. As a result, reliable actors like Willem Dafoe and Noah Taylor make little impression in Anderson's off-beat surroundings.

On the whole, Anderson's latest is a pleasant voyage, but it's a shame he can't seem to make characters compelling enough to encourage viewers to dive in.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/12/04 18:20:46
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User Comments

7/25/14 Evil Robot Like Big Lebowski, trusts you to see humor without "laugh now" cues. Better film for it. 5 stars
3/05/14 Mallatrinho Esteban was EATEN. 5 stars
6/07/13 Robert Great film, misunderstood by many. Its absurd and has a lot of heart. 5 stars
3/04/13 Langano Love Wes, but this one is a swing & a miss. 2 stars
9/30/12 roscoe Bad and absolutely not funny, entertaining, or adventurous 2 stars
5/22/09 Alex greate movie plot the filming the effect the colors incredible the MUUUUUSIC 5 stars
1/05/09 YMC You'll get the jokes the 2nd time around esp after you've watched some scuba diving movies. 5 stars
12/20/08 brian DJ says "You need intelligence to appreciate it." I belong to MENSA and hated it. 1 stars
11/20/08 Mike You won't like it if you're close-minded or ignorant. Otherwise have fun. 5 stars
11/19/08 Matt C. I don't like movies with so few likeable characters. Quirky=good. Nonsympathetic=bad 3 stars
11/03/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 5 stars
10/01/08 Colin this movie is amazing 5 stars
8/27/08 DJ Best movie of 2004 by a mile. You need intelligence to appreciate it however. 5 stars
5/31/08 telkontar Hated the lack of humor, but was thrilled that I kept watching about 80% through. Strange. 4 stars
5/28/08 Ian I saw it a while ago and fell asleep, but I gave it another go and totally loved it 4 stars
5/25/08 ej Truly one of my top ten movies ever--a bit quirky for most tastes it seems 5 stars
5/20/08 Leanne i've decided that this is my favorite film that i've seen in my entire life. incredible. 5 stars
5/07/08 Ash one of the funniest/best movies ever 5 stars
4/19/08 Andrea its a great wes andreson film but you have to like strange movies 5 stars
3/11/08 brew HORRIBLE!! 1 stars
1/27/07 Tamara D. Leonard :::SNORE::: 1 stars
1/11/07 Jake This movie was really strangely amusing... 5 stars
11/04/06 MP Bartley Does Anderson ever really care about his characters or just their quirks? 3 stars
10/07/06 Dave Wyatt Possibly the Greatest Film ever made. Good in the same way as Jim Jarmusch 5 stars
9/28/06 steve their will never be another one like this one, truly great 5 stars
6/05/06 megan not good at all 1 stars
2/21/06 Jim Odd, but worth sticking with. 4 stars
1/18/06 Naka About 1/4 as good as it should have been. :( 3 stars
11/28/05 Will We rented this movie based on a "friend's" recommendation and now we know who not to listen 2 stars
7/12/05 Tom Benton Beautiful, funny, highly artistic, but ultimately confused. 4 stars
7/08/05 Charlie Very funny, except the ending sucked. I thought this was supposed to be a comedy! 4 stars
6/30/05 jim young This movie suckes the big one. glad I did not pay to see it. but my time is still gone. 1 stars
6/29/05 mwildema How horrible can something be? 1 stars
6/15/05 R from the makers of Obligatory Drug Use comes: Quirky Direction - you can't ALWAYS be funny. 1 stars
6/14/05 E-FUNK Genious. Anderson's films get better upon every release. I can watch this over and over. 5 stars
5/31/05 Mckrob fantastic! I want to see it again... 5 stars
5/27/05 Dan What the fuck did I just watch? 2 stars
5/19/05 Cindy Sheeks EXTREMELY quirky. You gotta like that kind of film to enjoy this one. 3 stars
5/17/05 ELI Liked it a lot better the 2nd time. Love the 3 legged doggie! 4 stars
5/13/05 mitch a tad overlong and a bit underdeveloped, expect to see sights unseen in an Anderson movie. 4 stars
4/18/05 Renita Long bill murray rocks 4 stars
4/06/05 Daniel So many little things to like. I loved it every time. 5 stars
4/02/05 Ben Richardson The best film I've seen in a long time. I would highly recomend this movie to everyone 5 stars
3/30/05 shreif elassaly 5 stars
3/25/05 malcontent rushmore is still Anderson's high watermark, but this one is quirky galore 4 stars
3/01/05 Graham I hate to be smug and say people are too dumb to see the pulsing emotion... and yet... 5 stars
2/14/05 Nathan Wilhite Probably will grow on me just like Wes Anderson's others 4 stars
1/12/05 clarance the cobra see it just for dafoe...fucking great! 4 stars
1/11/05 Abbath Engrossing setting, very quirky but always entertaining. 5 stars
1/10/05 jeff garbage. unique in a baaad way. 1 stars
1/10/05 bernard Worst movie ever. Stupid moronic meaningless 1 stars
1/09/05 pin It won't make the studio happy - Too sublime for mainstream 5 stars
1/09/05 burton miller marvelous, bizarre, unique 5 stars
1/08/05 Lucas Stenz best American film of 2004 5 stars
1/08/05 Daniel I hate Owen Wilson and still love the movie 5 stars
1/05/05 Dunce Some good moments but the story dragged. Dafoe's character and performance were brilliant. 3 stars
1/03/05 KingNeutron Once again Murray makes it look effortless; only problem was, all fish looked FAKE. 4 stars
12/31/04 Titus Holy disjointed and pointless movie Batman! Anybody know the Phantom Editor? 2 stars
12/29/04 Vince I think i like it as much as Rushmore. 5 stars
12/29/04 Landshark rich in depth and detail, teeming with curiosities 5 stars
12/29/04 harold unbelievably clever, hilarious 5 stars
12/29/04 burton miller bizarre, dramatic, unpredictable, excellent 5 stars
12/28/04 carleton so fine, clever, hilarious, great acting, touching, colorful 5 stars
12/27/04 nick2k definately not co-written by owen, but still great from beginning to end. & theres action! 5 stars
12/26/04 ajay my least favorite wes anderson movie. hopefully the next one's better. 3 stars
12/24/04 jcjs gees, could've been great...lacking something 3 stars
12/16/04 FrayLo glad i saw this for was quite forgettable. 2 stars
12/15/04 raivan354 SUCKS ALL ASS, not funny, BORING as drying paint 1 stars
12/08/04 Ray Pretty cool 5 stars
12/07/04 adam it was great, great wes anderson flick with some good action fans will not be dissapointed 5 stars
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  10-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 10-May-2005



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