Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas: Brad Pitt Gets Wet

Disparate animation styles undermine enjoyable kiddie swashbuckler.

BRAD PITT'S NAKED ass only appears fleetingly in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (which opens Wed., July 2, at the Metro and other theaters). Even then, it's only half a butt cheek, and the likeness is purely conjectural. Sinbad, the high-spirited seafaring thief, looks no more like Pitt than Marina, his aristocratic love interest, does Catherine Zeta-Jones. Sinbad's merry band of buccaneers is rendered with a deliberately flat, old-school hand, while the backdrops, surfaces, and nonhuman characters (sea, sails, stars, sirens, sea monsters) all have a marvelously mottled and textured depth, thanks to CGI. The effect is like having two movies projected at once: Johnny Quest in the foreground, Finding Nemo in the rear. Sinbad would've benefited from going all the way in one direction (the richness of Shrek) or the other (the reassuring retro flatness of The Iron Giant). It's caught in an untenable stylistic middle ground, neither old nor new, with the characters outclassed by clouds and waves and a wonderful scaly island that turns out to be a giant fish. Still, Sinbad works well enough for kids, with plenty of adventure and derring-do. It's the animated equivalent of an old Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn pirate movie, set in a mythical Mediterranean where crafty Odysseus once sailed. (Although the city of Syracuse appears to be Lord of the Rings' elf city of Rivendell transported to the beach, thankfully Liv Tyler is nowhere in sight.) The plot is launched in a prologue in which the goddess of discord, Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), schemes to steal the Book of Peace. A buxom babe in a strapless purple prom dress with Medusa-tentacled hair, she's a trickster and shape-shifter; apparently lacking feet beneath her shapely legs, she just wisps and whirls around her celestial sphere like a puff of smoke. If the filmmakers had been willing to risk a few tiny tears of terror, here is a cartoon villainess who could've put Cruella De Vil and Snow White's wicked stepmother to shame. Instead, she's just a stock figure who's too easily defeated. Great entrance, but no real menace. A minor love triangle develops as Sinbad and Marina join forces to re-steal the book from Eris and save the life of Marina's imprisoned fiancé, Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), who's also Sinbad's childhood pal. Much swashbuckling and bravery ensue; there are two separate roller-coaster- like sequences (one on water, the other on ice); and there's even a slobbering dog to provide comic relief . . . from the other comic relief. As with Nemo and just about every other 'toon released recently, the animation techniquewhichever half you preferoutstrips the uninspired storytelling. Sinbad's wacky multiethnic crew is as familiar as the Seven Dwarfs (or, worse, the Keebler Elves). Sinbad himself is given the jocular, rascally personality of Bruce Campbell (particularly in his recurring role as Autolycus, King of Thieves, on TV's Xena and Hercules), while Pitt's off-speed wit never registers. Unlike the recent animated incarnations of Robin Williams, Mike Myers, or even Billy Crystal, the poor guy seems glumly stuck to script. As Sinbad says, "I'm only doing this for the money."

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