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Is "Sinbad" bad? A sneak peek at Dreamworks' next animated feature

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Is "Sinbad" bad? A sneak peek at Dreamworks' next animated feature

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Hey, gang!

Jim Hill again. Nancy and I are still out in California. As you read this, we'll probably already be on our way up to the Bay Area to check out some animation schools.

And -- speaking of animation (nice segue, eh?) -- I'm pleased to welcome back to JHM guest columnist Mark Mitchell. Some of you may recall Mark's earlier stories for the site, when he commented on the script for "Pirates of the Caribbean" as well as his review of "Jungle Book 2."

Of course, Mark wrote both of those previous stories under a pseudonym: RKORadioPictures. From this point forward, though, Mr. Mitchell has decided that he wants to write stories for JimHillMedia.com under his real name. Which I think is a good thing.

One minor quibble about today's column: Mark attempts to justify his somewhat downbeat take on "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" by closing his review with this statement: "But then again, I'm the guy that hates 'Shrek.'"

Given that I'm one of the millions of people out there who actually loved Dreamworks/PDI's Summer 2001 release (I'm also planning to check out "Shrek 4D" while I'm out in Southern California this week), this makes me wonder if I should actually go and check out "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas." For -- if a guy who says that he hated "Shrek" says that he also disliked Dreamworks' latest animated epic -- that makes it seem quite likely that I'll enjoy "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas."

But -- then again -- I'm also the guy who sort-of-kind-of enjoyed a lot of "Road to El Dorado."

Talk to you later, okay?
jrh

 

My expectations for "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" were pretty low. I've been everything but impressed with Dreamwork's most recent offerings. "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" was dull. Pretty to look at and everything, but boring as hell. And, of course, there was the disastrously awful "Road To El Dorado" which was terrible beyond words.

So, as you can see, I wasn't expecting too much. Now, was "Sinbad" as awful as "El Dorado"? Hardly. But was it better than "Spirit?" Unfortunately the answer is a resounding no.

The problem doesn't really lie in the animation, although it is a mixed bag. There is a lot of talent over at Dreamworks and this is definitely not their best showing. The animation seems loose most of the time and even sloppy at some points. The mixing of traditional and CG elements is horridly done and, unfortunately, there is A LOT of it. I'm reminded of the now-cancelled FOX series "Futurama"'s introduction one episode: "Painstakingly hand-drawn in front of a live studio audience" it claims.

"Sinbad" seems equally rushed.

But not story-wise. Oh no, screenwriter John Logan has managed to make the film incredibly long-winded and boring. Which surprised me ... somewhat. I mean, I really like his screenplay for the Tom Cruise vehicle "The Last Samurai," which is in post-production as we speak. But, conversely, I deplored "The Time Machine" and "Star Trek: Nemesis."

Now, to be fair, not all blame can be pushed onto Mr. Logan. On the contrary, I like to think of the animation process as a joint effort between all those involved. If someone working on the film, whether it be the director, a writer, a storyboarder, or an animator, comes up with a great idea, the filmmakers usually find a way to put it into the film, barring budget constraints. So to say that Sinbad is boring just because of the screenplay would be unfair. I mean, the entire film is boring. I've already mentioned the uninspired animation, but even the set pieces and color palette are dull and yawn-inducing.

Which brings us to the action sequences, which you know, you would think would be at least entertaining being that this is an action-adventure film. And for the most part, they are. I mean, I was never engaged by what was occurring on the screen but as stand-alone sequences they were mildly amusing.

The voice-work is definitely the bright spot of the movie. While I found Brad Pitt to be rather flat and (wait for it...) boring, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer do a great job of infusing their characters with life.

As with essentially all other Dreamworks' animated films, "Sinbad" earns its PG rating. The film is not violent, but there is some mild sensuality (that seems remarkably out of place) and some brief language. Which really bothers me for some reason. It's like Dreamworks feels it has to push the bounds of good taste in a family film so that they seem edgy and wholly not-Disney. Which is fine, but there are better ways to distinguish yourself like, for instance, making a better movie than "Treasure Planet." But, as much as Dreamworks may hate to hear it, "Sinbad" is remarkably like "Treasure Planet" in that it evokes the same viewer apathy that plagued Disney's micro-managed bust.

To sum up my feelings, do I think that you should see "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas?" No. But then again, I'm the guy that hates "Shrek."

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