Wes Anderson's unique style causes his films to be hit or miss with the designation as "hit" or "miss" varying from person to person. For me, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" is a major miss. My disappointment was actually a surprise as I have enjoyed most of Anderson’s work. Films like “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” offer an outside of the box look at the world but this film reads more like a parody. And the parody doesn't really work. The eccentric Anderson style is evident in the opening sequence and the unique dollhouse-like set, but the comedy lacks cleverness and his signature head-on shots. There is a chance that I would have better understood the film is I was familiar with Jacques Cousteau. I have never seen one of his oceanic documentaries so I have a difficult time assessing whether the homage properly captures his adventures. Still, I find that the entire story leans too heavily toward the silly side of the fine line that defines Anderson’s style. It makes sense to me that his other films have been on the Oscar ballot but this one didn’t catch the eye of the critics. One of the hardest pieces of this film to judge is the acting. The cast is populated by big names like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum, and Michael Gambon. These talented actors latch onto the script’s deadpan style, which causes the overall quality of the acting to seem mediocre. Intentional as this may be, the end result is rather boring. You never know what to expect next as this film progresses, like the Brazilian guitarist who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese. Yes, I did say SongS. “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is a mildly entertaining film but I wouldn’t judge all of Anderson’s work based on this one film. Once you’ve seen a proper realization of his eccentric style, this film will sink to the bottom of your list as it has for most of us.
[Pictured: One of the only signature Anderson head-on shots finally appears toward the very end of the film]