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</script></div>{/googleAds}A Wes Anderson movie is kind of like tapioca pudding there's stuff in there that's smooth and delicious, but there's even more that's chunky and unappealing. But whereas we always know what we'll get with the sweet gelatinous dessert, with an Anderson movie, there seems to be a need to surprise us with a bigger and chunkier lump in every bite.

With each subsequent film release, Anderson's self-appreciative brand of storytelling shows an increasing level of sophistication. But conversely, each release also falls deeper and deeper into the inescapable crevasse of hazy obscurity. 1996's Bottle Rocket was a quirky little story with true "indie" at its heart. 1998's Rushmore was a strange little coming-of-age comedy that, while working the fringes of conventionality, showed true writing genius. 2001's The Royal Tenenbaums was an extremely eccentric story topped with a healthy dollop of offbeat humor. But with his latest release, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson steps over the bounds of creative quirkiness and into the hands of outright incomprehensible absurdity. It's almost as if he has become totally obsessed with presenting arcane details and zany characteristics at the expense of the brilliant heartfelt storytelling we've come to know as his trademark.

Aging veteran oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his red woolen-capped crew, Team Zissou, are still cranking out episodes of their once-popular documentary entitled The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. But lately the program is showing its age. Funding is drying up and Zissou's best friend, business partner and reliable crewmate Esteban (Seymour Cassel) was reportedly eaten by a never-before-seen "Jaguar Shark". Setting a course for adventure, the crew of the Belafonte, including Steve's wealthy wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston), German engineer Klaus (Willem Dafoe), physicist Vladimir Wolodarsky (Noah Taylor), guitar-strumming safety expert Pele (Seu Jorge), pregnant reporter Jane Winslett (Cate Blanchett), a gaggle of unpaid interns, and a Kentucky Air co-pilot turned crewmate Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) searches for the "Jaguar Shark" hoping to exact its demise. When asked about the scientific value of killing it, Zissou smugly quips, "revenge."

This adventurous search for the shark is the main plot thread that provides the playground for Anderson's ever-increasingly quirky characters and wacky little side bits. Numerous subplots and running gags, including the discovery that Zissou can't tell the difference between an electric jellyfish and a Portuguese Man O' War, take clever little jabs at real-life thoughts and characters but are only occasionally funny. A father-son subplot between Steve Zissou and Ned Plimpton attempts to inject the film with a sense of caring sincerity, but any sympathy we muster up for Steve and Ned is eventually squashed by their cold, distant deadpan delivery and the obnoxious attention the film draws to itself.

Whimsy and imagination, when used correctly, can be marvelously endearing aspects of moviemaking. In Big Fish, Tim Burton used a perfect blend of whimsical imagination and brilliant storytelling to steal our hearts. But in The Life Aquatic, Anderson seems to be using his active imagination more for the purpose of drawing attention to his moviemaking skills than for making me like the movie. Several parts of the film are interesting and intriguing in and of themselves, but as a well-oiled storytelling unit, The Life Aquatic has way too many chunks and lumps for me to willingly swallow.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; deleted scenes; director's commentary; cast and crew interview.

* Commentaries:
o Feature-length audio commentary by Anderson and his writing partner Noah Baumbach
* Featurettes:
o "Starz on the Set" - with interviews; set footage
o Ned, Jane and Esteban on-set examination feature
o Stop-motion animation featurette
o Production design and costume featurette
o 19-minute interview with composer Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo
o This is an Adventure - Behind-the-scenes look at the production
* Deleted Scenes:
o Nine deleted scenes
* Musical Extra - 10 full-length performances by Seu Jorge (performing David Bowie number)
* Image Gallery - still images from the movie, paintings and advertisements.
* Theatrical Trailer
* Easter Egg: Move the cursor up until an arrow appears next to "The Criterion Collection". Select it, and you can view a video introduction to the DVD from Antonio Monda.
* Interview: Anderson and Baumbach on the Italian television set of "Monda Monda"

Number of discs: 2 - Keepcase