The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou



Another quirkfest from Wes Anderson; not for kids.
  • Review Date: May 8, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Characters behave badly in many ways, from being cruel to each other to stealing.


Violence and peril, including guns, characters killed.


Non-sexual nudity, non-explicit sexual references and situations.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking, smoking, drug use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie 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 (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums), this is filled with imaginatively charming images and Anderson's trademark oddball characters from a mix of cultures, all speaking in his signature corkscrew speech and reacting as though no two of them speak the same language. He's great with situations, visuals, and deadpan delivery of weird, almost absurd, dialogue. But increasingly, it 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Steve seemed more attached to his friend who was killed than to anyone else in his family or crew. What mattered to him? What mattered to Ned and Jane? What did it add to her character to have her pregnant?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 10, 2004
DVD release date:May 10, 2005
Cast:Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson
Director:Wes Anderson
Studio:Buena Vista
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, some drug use, violence and partial nudity

This review of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byRyan Peter May 26, 2014

Main Reviewer:

How is a "sex" point added just because a character is bisexual. If you can't deal with your kids witnessing such horrors of the modern world, than maybe you shouldn't be allowed to choose your your opinion as the best choice for anything. I'm not one ti discount anyone else's views of the world, but I can sure as hell disagree.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byThe Cheap Seats February 13, 2014

The Deeper You Go, the Weirder Life Gets

"The Life Aquatic" is one of my favorites from Wes Anderson. It's visuals are beautiful and the use of stop-motion is genius. It adds to this dreamy, other-worldly element that the film has going for it. "The Life Aquatic" is not only a blast but it explores human relationships to a large extent. It's a great movie tame despite its R rating. There are only a few f-words and milder profanities and brief topless nudity twice. There is some brief violence but it's very tame and done in a comedic manner. B+.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 17 years old Written byindiemovies August 8, 2015

Weird in the Best Way Possible

This is one of Wes Anderson's worst reviewed movies ever, many critics attacking the fact that it doesn't stay relevant to the plot, and the jokes are unfunny and strange. But what most of those people don't understand is that this is one of Anderson's trademarks, and one that critics tend to dislike, and that is his placement of strange details and scene that could have nothing less to do with the story; but these little tidbits separate this movie from the rest of cinema, because it gives you a look into a life that isn't completely straightforward, no life in reality is, and that's what makes this movie great. Through some stellar and moody performances, this movie makes you cry without even really knowing why, with sudden surges of sentimentality that cut deep and give the whole experience some feeling of resolution and completion. There are a couple of bare breasts and sexual references, but none that are too adult for younger teens. This is, like all Wes Anderson movies, unbelievably quirky, and if you believe your kid will understand the humor and the skill put in, then they will probably love this movie and his others.


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