The image above represents the wonderful visual creativity on display in Wes Anderson’s marine epic The Life Aquatic With Steve Zizzou. Anderson and animator Henry Selick create some brilliantly surreal underwater creatures that pop with color and personality, giving momentary glimpses into a unique and layered existence beneath the surface. If only their human counterparts matched this sort of vibrancy and intimacy.
The script, co-written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach, has little use for a connective narrative, reverting stock characters into drones of past Anderson incarnations without much depth or sincerity. The film meanders along for nearly two hours, shelling out standard Anderson wit like it’s on indefinite quirky auto-pilot. Bill Murray’s lead performance is admirable, especially in the sad final moments when he transcends the catch phrases and sheds a few tears in honor of his fallen son Ned (Owen Wilson). The Life Aquatic isn’t a bad film, nor a terribly interesting one at that (a first for Anderson), making the beautiful but hollow end result all the more frustrating.