The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Wes Anderson

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Wes Anderson
The Life Aquatic, Wes Anderson's chronicle of a scientific adventurer and documentary superstar dealing with a decline in his fortunes, is the most disappointing feature so far in Anderson's career — yet his fans will still pore over its every stuffed detail trying to unravel why. The root of Life Aquatic's failure isn't really clear; after all, it contains most of the elements of Anderson's previous successes. Following Anderson's closest-to-masterpiece films, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, Bill Murray, playing Steve Zissou, is along for his third tour of duty; the set design, look and attention to detail remain paramount; and the ensemble cast is chock-a-block with eccentrics (Willem Dafoe's needy German crewmate, Owen Wilson's naïve potential Zissou offspring, Cate Blanchett's pregnant, Proust-reading journalist). But while Anderson once again inhabits a surreal otherworldly reality where seafaring documentarians are film superstars and sea life is just this side of magic, the drastic swings in tone simply don't gel. Part Bond-esque adventure, part still-life art piece, part poignant character examination, The Life Aquatic ends up an unfocused mess. Like Martin Scorsese, Anderson has found his De Niro in the deadpan Bill Murray, but unlike the film master, he hasn't found his voice in the editing or music selection yet (two little-heralded elements that Scorsese has elevated to film art, and that Anderson desperately needs). For the second straight film, Criterion goes all out for the DVD, where a long documentary is the most revealing element. Anderson is clearly giddy over every tiny element of Aquatic and pores over them during commentary with co-writer Noah Baumbach, but he seems to have lost his calculator because it seems in adding The Life Aquatic's parts, he forgot to carry the one. Plus: interviews with cast and crew, deleted scenes, photos and artwork, more. (Criterion/Buena Vista)