I must have been seven the first time I saw a Sinbad movie. Yes kids, surprise surprise, Sinbad is in fact not an original Dreamworks animation product. I think they save all their REALLY creative juices to use inventing new fart sounds for Shrek. But at age 7, my Dad and I only actually had two things in common. One was a voracious appetite for "Star Trek"; the other was an abiding love of pirate movies. In fact the only time I remember us ever doing anything together were the few times we'd stay up late watching Errol Flynn or the men of the HMS Bounty flashing swords about majestic vessels sailing across the seven seas. And there was Sinbad. Loads of Sinbad. With his unbelievable monsters and his implacable foes, that kids, that was something special.
Like all good things, Sinbad was bound to be remade. Again. And again. And again. By IMDB's count, this is somewhere around the 27th time, including one overlooked adventure starring Brenden Fraser in the year 200 (B0. This time though, he's animated, and voiced by a bevy of big name stars that Dreamworks is hoping will lure your money into the theater. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas stars Brad Pitt as the voice of Sinbad, a cold hearted pirate with a quick wit and a love of thievery. But his natural good luck goes awry when he's targeted by Eris, the goddess of Chaos (Michelle Pfeiffer) and is forced to seek out the Book of Peace to set the world right. The Book of Peace is best described as super-Windex. When it's open the world is shiny and clean, but when you close it everything gets dark and grimy.
Some of the animation here is actually quite beautiful. An incredibly detailed mix of traditional animation and newfangled CGI blend together seamlessly to create stunning backgrounds and lifelike action set pieces. In particular, there's a gorgeous scene, in which a crewman swings through the ship lighting lamps that literally made my draw drop. It's the little things like that which make parts (Bof Sinbad completely engrossing. That sort of detail is even carried into the personalities of the characters, the most notable of which is a sailor named Rat, who practically lives in the ships rigging. Watch the marvelous detail they put into the way he climbs the ropes, or the way in which he's always hanging into the frame at odd angles. The animators really had a lot of fun with some of the little tricks they work in, such as the delightfully sneaky way the goddess Eris oozes sex and sensuality as she morphs across the screen* and that translates into some wildly good stuff for the audience.
But as much detail and attention as was paid to constructing a realistic and beautiful environment for this story to run around in, as much time must have been spent on the little details, almost none was paid to character designs themselves. Character animation, by contrast, lacks any detail or style. Shadowing is overused and each character is almost completely over-glossed. When contrasted to (Bthe wonderfully done environments these people are walking around in, they stand out like badly drawn sore thumbs.
Unfortunately, inconsistent animation is only part of the problem. I realize it is important from a monetary standpoint to have a big name star attached to your movie. But being a good actor or a big Hollywood name does not mean that someone is at all suited for animated voice work. The three heavyweights dragged into Sinbad are terribly wrong. Brad Pitt's voice is too high and lacks any depth to it. His Sinbad comes off like a mewling infant or some sneaky boy card shark. Catherine Zeta-Jones sounds bored and fails to convey any believable emotion to her character. Michelle Pfeiffer works HARD to have a lot of fun with her goddess Eris, and I give her credit for trying her best* but her soft sinuous voice is just the wrong choice to be pumping out from the lips of a world devouring super god.
It's a shame that Dreamworks couldn't have found a better-su (Bited cast. Perhaps even voice actors with actual vocal talent? This movie could have worked, because the story itself is actually a lot of fun, an engaging mix of harrowing adventure and outlandish heroism using adult humor and style. There's a great musical score pumping along with it, that almost forces you get caught up in the excitement, and the periphery characters of Sinbad's crew are an underdeveloped blast. Add another hour of meatier adult content onto this film, and what a wonderful live-action flick it could be. As an animated project though, it is only passable family entertainment that could have been easily turned into a more noteworthy animated epic. Because of that, this isn't a perfectly done adventure, but a tasty reminder of just how great the world of Sinbad can be.