While Belle and the Beast's tale may go far back in time, Sinbad's is certainly older. It derives from the Arabian Nights, the source of many a memorable screen fantasy, notably the 1947 Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler Thief of Baghdad and 1958's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, featuring Ray Harryhausen's magical special effects. Brimming with awesome action, fantastic creatures, and a rogue's gallery of colorful characters, this rollicking adventure reanimates the Sinbad legend. Brad Pitt heads the voice cast as our mercenary, piratical antihero, who reluctantly embarks on a perilous voyage to retrieve the priceless Book of Peace from Eris (a purring Michelle Pfeiffer), the goddess of discord. Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones gives feisty and forceful voice to Marina, who stows away onboard to make sure the incorrigible Sinbad completes his mission and does not hightail it to Fiji. Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) is the voice of Proteus, Sinbad's childhood friend and Marina's fiancé, who selflessly takes Sinbad's place in prison, allowing the pirate to go after the Book. Pitt hasn't been this rakishly charming onscreen since Thelma and Louise, and the role seems to put the wind in his sails. The witty, albeit anachronistic, dialogue goes overboard at times ("Who's bad? Sin-bad"), but most of the time, the animators are wowing us with one spectacular sequence after another, from nasty behemoths to liquid Sirens, the latter luring Sinbad's men to certain death. Don't miss the boat on one of the buried treasures of the Summer 2003 movie season.
Like the first DreamWorks animated effort The Prince of Egypt, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas tells a more emotionally complex tale than the average Disney film. This story of a rogue who must decide where his loyalties lie is one that children may not fully comprehend. As with their earlier biblical epic, DreamWorks has hired an A-list cast to give voice to the characters. Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ralph Fiennes and the entire cast all do acceptable work, but their voices alone do not lend the film any movie-star charisma -- the exception being Michelle Pfeiffer's entertaining work as a goddess who is in equal measure sultry and fiendish. And, while the animation is technically good, it lacks any wonder. There is nothing as imaginative in this film as the creatures and battle sequences created by Ray Harryhausen for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad 40 years before. Pixar's vastly superior Finding Nemo was released the same year as Sinbad. Nemo's perfect blend of adult emotions and stylish animation shows what DreamWorks may be able to achieve once they come up with a style of animation worthy of their ambitious stories.