Life Aquatic : Not a Movie Review

It was a sudden decision to go to the movies. Amy phoned looking for a ride to a friend's house near Botany prompting me to check the Village movie website. I guess there're lots of movies on - The Aviator, Ray, Sideways - but nothing that really floats my boat. But Life Aquatic was starting at 8:50pm - in ten minutes - right yes lets go tell David I'm on my way if he wants to come.

By the time I got to Amy's house, I had a car full of people waiting for me. Amy and Kirsty to be dropped off at Shelley's house so they could go "clubbing" (I try not to think of these things), David and Greg who'd decided movies with us was better than rugby on television (a rather startling revelation but there you go).

So, we were late into the cinema after dropping the girls off at Repco to navigate the dark walkway (meh, they'll be okay) to their friend's house and missed any previews, but not the start of the movie. Phew. (I really have no idea why I need to tell you the "how we got to the cinema" bit) It's still shocking to me that 2 Adults and a Child have to part with $38 to see a movie.

I don't know what to say about Life Aquatic. I'm a Bill Murray fan. I don't always expect him to be funny but he looked amusing in the trailer for this film. But the trailer also gave the impression that the movie might be lame and I'd had it in my "The Aviator/Ray/Sideways" catagory for a while (you know, should see/can't be arsed) but the TV3 girl (the one who described Somersault as a "poem of a movie" (liked that)) said it was very good, laugh-out-loud funny in some parts, and left her with a smile on her face long after leaving the theatre. Yeh, I know.. good review huh? I don't normally have any contact with reviews for things but she's on TV3 10pm News so I often hear her take on movies.

Well, we're gonna listen to her with a grain of salt from now on, okay? because in the end, I was left with the feeling that I just didn't "get it" and that's less a smile on my face than a bewildered expression.

That's an entirely usual expression for me. I didn't "get" Starship Troopers either. Maybe this was the same deal. Maybe I missed something, maybe I'm not wired for this kind of humour. I don't know. But about half way through the movie I leaned over to David and whispered "This is a really dumb movie" and he screwed his nose up and nodded agreement.

So why was it dumb? Up to that point I'd laughed a few times - there was humour there. I'd recognised the Port of Naples, I was pretty chuffed about that. Owen Wilson (and his deformed nose) wasn't annoying me as much as he usually does. The music was really good. There were even pirates - and we all know pirates are usually a sure-fired way to have an enjoyable time in a movie theatre. But it just didn't work for me. It straddled the line between bizarre and serious and it just didn't work. None of the characters seemed to connect - with me, or with each other. I think the most likeable character was the curly-headed intern who ended up being hurt when the pirates attacked.

The creatures sprinkled through the movie might be the key to why this movie didn't work. Many of the scenes had wonderous, computer animated stop motion animated creatures - they were bizarre and dreamlike, and very unlike the style "above" the water. Though these creatures weren't always in the sea - the rainbow coloured seahorse, for example; or the little flipping frogs on Hennessey's doorstep. They were surprising, and delightful, and foreign. The movie felt as if each character, each creature, each scene even, existed independant of the rest of the movie. Like the compartments on the cut-away Belafonte (Zissou's boat) this movie was segmented and nothing tied it together to enough of a degree for it to flow.

It might just be me, so I'm a little reluctant to say don't see this movie. I might've just missed the point. At least if you go, the music is good. The price of the movie ticket is worth listening to Brazilian singer Seu Jorge delivering acoustic David Bowie covers sung in Portuguese.

[added 14 March 2005] the ever fabulous Dave wrote a "how to" about the stop motion graphics used in this film. (I got it wrong - not computer generated but stop motion.. got it?) He's (Dave) smart and funny, talented and liked the movie so there you go - it was probably that I just didn't "get it". When you see it, tell me what you thought.