Brad Pitt voices one of cinema’s most famous adventure heroes for Dreamworks Animation’s Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Sinbad begins the tale as a man with loose morals who strikes a deal with Eris, the goddess of chaos (Michelle Pfeiffer), to steal a sacred book for her. Turns out that Sinbad has scruples, though, forcing Eris to steal the book herself and frame Sinbad for the crime. No one believes Sinbad’s innocence — no one except a childhood friend (Joseph Fiennes) who agrees to take the punishment of death in place of Sinbad, if the sailor fails to return the book in ten days’ time.
This animated Sinbad never hooked me and held my interest the way I’d hoped. I do appreciate screenwriter John Logan’s attempt to complicate matters by having Fienne’s fiancee (Catherine Zeta-Jones) accompany Sinbad on the adventure. The two are combative at first, but eventually fall in love. Goodness knows we’ve seen that dynamic play out countless times before, but at least it gives some meat to a middle act that otherwise swings from one sea monster attack to another. The third act is the strongest, with Logan finding a compelling way to pit mortal Sinbad against immortal Eris — a showdown I was sure would disappoint.
The film combines hand-drawn character animation with computer-generated environments, an aesthetic that looks cheap to me, especially when the 2D characters interact with large, 3D monsters. I liked the voice cast overall. Michelle Pfeiffer’s villainous character is especially well conceived and executed. Harry Gregson-Williams music is another highlight. There are also a few good adult jokes thrown into the dialogue. But I think what holds this Sinbad movie back is the fact that its hero never really participates in his journey of self discovery. His decisions to ‘do the right thing’ feel coincidental instead of carefully considered, keeping him from ever achieving true heroism.