Monday , March 4 2024

Movie Review: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

I know people who walk out of movies that truly irk them but I have never done that.

With The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou I seriously considered walking out of the theater… the trouble was that I was watching it at home.

The experience was such a sour one that I am seriously considering the need for a method for deciding when to quit on a movie.

I’m a voracious reader, rarely reading a book more than once since there are so many good books to read. So I have a system: If by page 50 – or 100 if I’m feeling charitable – I have no interest in where the plot is going or what happens with the character, I move on to the next book.

I came really close to doing that with this movie starring Bill Murray. About 30 minutes into it I decided if it did not get better by the end of the first hour I was leaving the room.

About 45 minutes into the movie it improved. It grew more interesting.

My hopes were raised.

I was realizing that actor William Dafoe actually had a character that was funny and somewhat charming.

And Cate Blachett…. well, it’s hard to stop watching her in anything.

The story – about a Jacques Cousteau-type team searching for a great sea creature – still bored me stiff but I decided to give it more time.

So I decided to watch the rest of the movie and let me tell you something: I want those two hours of my life back!

The director, Wes Anderson, had an excellent debut movie, Bottle Rocket, which was a sleeper indie hit. It was innovative, original and very clever.

Anderson’s next movie, Rushmore, was also quirky and good.

Then came The Royal Tenenbaums, which was good only in that it was weird and edgy and had great music. The movie had its moments but mostly it was junk.

And so it goes with Anderson’s latest. The movie tries on plot devices – a documentary film within the overall film, a group of pirates taking over the ship, two characters flirting with the same character – the way some people try on shoes.

Only if this movie was a shoe, or a person trying on shoes, it would have some serious fungus and stink.

After watching this I was curious about the positive critical buzz this movie received upon its release. I went and read the reviews by Roger Ebert (mostly positive) and Slate’s more reliable reviewer, David Edelstein (negative).

There are several possible reactions a movie should spark in a viewer: Pleasure, delight, fascination, shock – those are all good ones. Why did I just spend two hours on that? Well, that’s not a reaction I think a filmmaker seeks. But that’s what it garnered from me.

If you like trying on new things, give it a try. But don’t say I did not warn you.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been working in mental health for the last ten years. He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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