THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (Wes Anderson, 2004)
Bill Murray embarks on a quest to avenge the death of his friend in THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU. Murray plays the Jacques Cousteau-like Steve Zissou, an oceanic explorer struggling to continue making his documentary films. The most recent mission ended with a jaguar shark eating Steve’s best friend Esteban. The incident provides him with better material for his film as well as cause to ponder his own mortality and relevance. Joining the crew of the Belafonte is Owen Wilson as Ned Plimpton, an Air Kentucky pilot who believes Steve may be his long-lost biological father.
THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU is the latest from RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS writer-director Wes Anderson. Noah Baumbach replaces previous co-writing partner Owen Wilson for this film, but the arch humor remains familiar. Anderson is known for creating hermetic worlds that seem fussed over down to the tiniest detail. He outdoes himself with THE LIFE AQUATIC, creating a wondrous visual space in the Belafonte. First and foremost Anderson possesses a masterful eye for composition and color. From the very first shot, THE LIFE AQUATIC is eye-popping, making most other films look like the dingy work of amateurs. The film’s storyline plays out as a comic riff on MOBY-DICK, which is hilarious if you’re on Anderson’s wavelength but will probably bore to tears those who aren’t. Murray is perfectly cast as the world-weary, irascible Steve Zissou. In a talented supporting cast Willem Dafoe stands out as Klaus, a longtime Team Zissou member who protects Steve like a guard dog and feels threatened when Ned comes aboard. An ambitious, uproariously funny, and even touching film, THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU cements Anderson as one of the most talented directors of his generation.
(Review first aired on the January 4, 2005 NOW PLAYING)