The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

(In theaters, December 2004) By now, director Wes Anderson’s uneasy pairings of silly comedy with awful melodrama is fast approaching cliché, and this film doesn’t do much to correct this impression. On one hand, it’s more technically ambitious than either Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums (look at that: CGI! A cutaway set! Action scenes!) and doesn’t leave as bad a taste once it’s over. On the other, well, the death of some characters doesn’t mean much, the quirkiness seems too cultivated to be effective and there’s always the sense that Anderson’s films are a grab-bag because he lacks the ability to focus on a coherent objective. Too bad, also, that the editor of the trailer has a better sense of humour than Anderson himself: by selling this film as an outright comedy, the studio isn’t making itself any friends. Fortunately, acting credits are top-notch: Bill Murray reprises his soulful loser personae in yet another attempt to recapture an Oscar while the rest of the players struggle in his shining magnificence. All well and blah, but maybe it would be time for Anderson to do something else?

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