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Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (U)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of; Filmmaker's commentary; Spotlight On Harvey - The Voice of Spike; Art gallery; Games; Cyclops Island.

LONG gone are the days when Disney ruled the animation roost, almost single-handedly. Most of the major film companies seem to have realised the potential of tapping into the children’s market and have set about attempting to wrestle away the crown owned by the Magic Kingdom, with mixed results.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is one of the better efforts to emerge from the challengers, however, arriving as a lavish, visually beautiful combination of traditional hand-drawn and computer-generated animation techniques, set against the backdrop of a classic story.

The legend of Sinbad was born more than a thousand years ago and has inspired generation upon generation of young children, having been brought to the screen on several occasions, most notably in Ray Harryhausen’s cult-classic stop-motion animated films.

Yet the story is given a contemporary spin by Dreamworks, who have assembled some heavyweight talent to get behind one of their most ambitious animated ventures to date.

For starters, audiences can look forward to hearing the voices of Brad Pitt (Sinbad), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Marina), Michelle Pfeiffer (Eris) and 24’s Dennis Haysbert, among others, while the script comes courtesy of John Logan, who scribed the Oscar-winning epic, Gladiator.

The idea, it seems, is to lend proceedings a truly epic feel, but while Sinbad aspires to great heights, it very rarely achieves them, despite remaining a thoroughly enjoyable family film throughout.

The story centres around Sinbad and crew after the happy-go-lucky sailor has been framed, by Pfeiffer’s Goddess of chaos, for stealing one of the world’s most priceless and powerful treasures - the Book of Peace.

Sentenced to death, the tireless adventurer is given one chance to clear his name by childhood friend, Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), who agrees to swap places under the executioner’s axe, while Sinbad sets about recovering the book, and restoring order to the former’s kingdom.

Helping him to do so, meanwhile, is Proteus’ feisty betrothed, Marina, who gives as good as she gets in helping to ensure Sinbad doesn’t stray from his path, while winning over the respect and admiration of his crew.

The ensuing high sea adventure takes in all manner of monstrous creatures and elements, while Sinbad and crew attempt to out-manoeuvre the devious manipulations of Pfeiffer’s goddess.

For the most part, Sinbad does a pretty decent job of mixing the action with the intricacies of the story, providing plenty to excite the younger members of the audience, as well as giving something for the grown-ups to get their teeth into.

There are occasional lulls, when the children at the screening I attended were heard to be restless, but for the most part, the look, feel and enthusiasm of proceedings had them enthralled.

Needless to say, the film benefits greatly from the vocal talents of its first-rate cast, with Pitt, especially, infusing his ‘Sin-Brad’ with a roguish element reserved for all of the best heroes, and Pfeiffer suitably vampish as the devilishly playful goddess. Haysbert, too, lends gravitas to his performance as Sinbad’s first mate, given how distinctive his voice is anyway.

And with several set pieces to savour, including a thrilling escape from the clutches of a snowbird, and an encounter with some Sirens, which combine the requisite excitement with some terrific visual artistry, there is plenty to admire in Sinbad, making this a worthwhile trip to the cinema for young and old this Summer.

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