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December 31, 2004

The Review Emphatic with Peter Merholz

Couple nights ago we saw The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. I'd gone in with low expectations -- I enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore, but early notices suggested that Wes Anderson had gotten a little too precious for his own good, drifted a little too far away from people and emotions toward a world of quirks.

Life Aquatic may be Anderson's best film yet. It doesn't have the deep emotional center of Rushmore, but it's simply funnier and a lot more fun to watch. Yes, it's weird, quirky, and bizarre. But it's soooo delightful. Like the old MAD comics drawn by Will Elder, every scene is crammed with details you want to follow. And, unlike what reviewers suggested, it's in no way condescending. Wes draws you into his masterfully created dollhouse/trainset/whathaveyou.

One thing that's clear about many filmgoers is that they simply don't deal well with weird. And Life Aquatic has weird in spades -- David Bowie sung in Portuguese, brightly colored faux sea creatures, stupid dolphins with cameras on their heads, an intricate boat replete with spa, a deep water submarine that holds 15, a character seen eating in every shot he's in. Perhaps the daffiest scenes involve pirates and gunfire that is shot in a way reminiscent of a junior high play -- lots of pops, people shouting, goofy costumes, and utterly, utterly non-threatening.

Anyway, ignore the naysayers, turn off your cynicism, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Posted by peterme at December 31, 2004 06:30 AM


How odd. I can't think of one bad review. Very early buzz on this was that Murray may even finally get his Oscar for his performance in this film.

Posted by: daniel harvey at December 31, 2004 09:46 AM

Metacritic currently gives The Life Aquatic a 60, up from 58 a couple of days ago. So, not universally panned or anything, but definitely a lukewarm reception, especially compared to, say, SIDEWAYS.

Posted by: peterme at December 31, 2004 10:40 AM

My wife and I hated it. Almost couldn't sit through the whole film. And we loved Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, so we came to this one with reasonably high expectations.

I just didn't find anything particularly enjoyable about Life Aquatic. It had that nice weird Wes Anderson tone, but no real funny or poignant moments. It wasn't as painfully bad as most mainstream Hollywood fare today, but that's not saying much. I guess we just disagree.

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