The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – A Movie Review

What can I say other than I loved this movie?  It’s quirky, it’s understated, it’s inadvertently hilarious, and it’s the opposite of most every other movie I’ve seen lately.  And that’s why I loved it.

This film is brought to you by Wes Anderson, the guy who gave us The Royal Tenenbaums (which was also an excellent film for the same reasons).  It stars a can’t-miss Bill Murray, a nearly-can’t-miss Owen Wilson, a gaining-respect-in-my-book Cate Blanchett, a can’t-miss-if-you-get-him Jeff Goldblum, a nice-change-of-pace William Dafoe, and a much- better-actress-than-I’ve-previously-given-her-credit-for Anjelica Huston.

This movie, for all its eccentricity, truly did touch an emotional cord with me.  At the heart of it we’ve got Steve Zissou, a man trying to bond with someone that may or not be his son, a man who can’t hold his marriage together, a man whose best friend was eaten by a jaguar shark that may or may not exist, a man whose once stellar documentary film career is waning, a man who has somehow become a pale shadow of his former self.  Pretty heavy stuff, isn’t it? 

Somehow these qualities don’t glare at you because of the overall underplayed hilarity of the film.  The sea life is animated in such a way that you’re never supposed to think for an instant that they’re real, the insides of the ship they sail on is purposefully supposed to look like a multi-layered set on a theatre stage, and, best of all, we’ve got a member of Zissou’s crew singing David Bowie songs throughout the film in Portuguese. 

Unlikely moments of somberness are met with over-the-top moments of action, all infused with mundane moments of life on an adventure paying homage to Jacques Cousteau.  I never would have thought these qualities had the makings of a superb comedy, and that’s why The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a rousing success.

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