A review of ďThe Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for nudity and language

Run Time: 2 hours


Wes Anderson doesnít do mainstream and thatís an understatement.His previous efforts include Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums -- need I say more?

Aquatic is no less wacky and weird than its peculiar predecessors, chock-a-block with acerbic humor and a tongue-in-cheek presentation perpetually on the brink of narrative collapse.

Bill Murray cuts it up as Steve Zissou, a contemporary Jacques Cousteau persistently pushing the envelope to study quality advances in marine biology.A tragic accident finds Steveís co-worker and best friend Esteban du Plantier (Seymour Cassel) in the mouth of a jaguar shark, chewed to a bloody pulp.

Determined to get his revenge on the predaceous fish that devoured his pal, Zissou preps for a vigilante adventure which is unceremoniously delayed by the arrival of Southern-fried pilot Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), more likely than not Zissouís illegitimate love-child from a past affair.

The ragtag Team Zissou takes to the seas Fantastic Voyage-style in the ultra-fitted WWII submarine Belafonte, an instructional vessel complete with sauna and Swedish masseuse, research library, spendy sonar devices and a pair of albino dolphin scouts (cute!).

Personalities clash but Zissou sees to the human resources side with an abundance of exaggerated self-confidence. Along for the ride is Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), an investigative reporter for the Oceanographic Explorer whoís writing a less-than-flattering puff-piece about Zissou and Company. Sooner rather than later Ned and Zissou are rivaling each other for the pregnant Janeís cautious affections.

Borderline moronic but punctuated by Andersonís trademark flashes of brilliance, Aquatic is all over the map with its cast of sardonic pundits and their fatuous puns. Itís hard to keep a straight face at the sight of en masse Zissous in their powder-blue leisure suits and red-knit caps resembling wooly condoms.

Murray steals the show from his fellow A-listers (crew-mate Willem Dafoe, research rival Jeff Goldblum, estranged spouse Anjelica Houston) with anachronistic glee. Wilson and the rest of the supporting players deliver existential dialogue with poker-faced irony.

Mutiny on board turns comic as quickly as a pirate coup turns tedious.Best of show belongs to a series of beguilingly nonsensical sea creatures and the grand finale aboard a kooky underwater stealth pod.

A mixed-bag but worth a look.