A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou includes very strong language, non-sexual nudity (topless sunbathing), and non-explicit sexual references and situations, including pregnancy from an adulterous affair and bisexuality. Characters drink, smoke, and smoke marijuana. Characters behave badly in many ways, from being cruel to each other to stealing. Characters are in peril and there are violent encounters with deadly animals and various weapons, including guns. Some characters are killed.
What's the story?
THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU is the story of Jacques Cousteau-like explorer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), who finances his expeditions by filming them. He has not had a successful movie in nine years. His wife (Anjelica Huston) strides around chain-smoking and making bitter comments. She maintains a flirty relationship with her bisexual ex-husband, Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum), who happens to be Zissou's rival. Zissou's new mission is not about science; it is about revenge. He wants to kill the "jaguar shark" that killed his friend. His motley crew includes the high strung Klaus Daimler (Willem Dafoe) and some newcomers: Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), a naval officer who could be Zissou's son, Bill Ubell (Bud Cort), assigned to watch over them by the bond company, and Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), an intrepid English journalist who is pregnant. Steve and Ned go off in their run-down ship and end up engaging with pirates, stealing equipment from Hennessey, and developing a romantic rivalry for Jane.
Is it any good?
Another quirkfest from Wes Anderson, this is filled with imaginatively charming images and Anderson's trademark oddball characters from a mix of cultures. They all speaking in his signature corkscrew speech and react as though no two of them speak the same language. Anderson is great with situations, visuals, and deadpan delivery of weird, almost absurd, dialogue. But increasingly, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou all seems to be tricks without any meaning or insight behind them, cleverness for the sake of cleverness, without any heart or soul. Or art. College students can deconstruct to their hearts' delight, but it's their own meaning they will bring to the movie, not Anderson's.
Anderson benefits tremendously from the always-engaging production design by Mark Friedberg, a delightful score by former Devo-ian Mark Mothersbaugh, and the always-engaging performances by top-notch actors clearly enjoying themselves, especially Goldblum, Dafoe, and Blanchett. The script, by Anderson and Noah Baumbach takes some bad turns in the last half hour that feel sour and unsatisfying. Anderson is getting close to Emperor's New Clothes-time here, and eventually someone is going to point out that when it comes to the substance, he has nothing on.
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