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IN SHORT: A fine toon. We think. [Rated PG (for adventure action, some mild sensuality and brief language). ]
We saw Sinbad the night before our back decided to make its own trip to Hell, else we would have called our Dreamworks rep to say "Hey! The projectionist showed the first reel without sound -- on and off-- and screwed up all his reel changes, messing up our ability to lose ourself in the film. One more time, please." It is a sign of a great piece of animation that, despite those major annoyances, we a) followed the story and b) damaged our jaw, from dropping, at the most spectacular animated sequence we've seen in years. We'll come back to that. It's more important that, over all, we enjoyed Sinbad quite a bit, even with all the problems. We can't go so far as to critique whether or not the vocal performances of Pitt and Co. properly connected on an emotional level. The damage in projection put that ability way out of reach.
Those who remember the films of Ray Harryhausen know what they expect of a Sinbad film. Those in single or low double digits may not. Those in our audience were screaming and cheering and applauding loudly -- we know kidlets haven't seen a lot and most will like almost anything on a really big screen, but these were honest to Zeus cheers!
Best we can figure, The Greek goddess of Discord and/or Chaos, Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer) has decided, as Greeks Gods will do, to have a little fun mucking about in the lives of the mortals under her control. So she frames Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) for the theft of something called the Book of Peace. By law, the sentence is Death. Proteus' childhood friend Sinbad (Brad Pitt), a notorious thief, offers to retrieve the Book of Peace from its hiding place in the city of Tartarus. Sinbad rides off . . . not to Tartarus but Fiji. He is a thief, after all, and (we're guessing here) has been pardoned of his crimes somewhere along the line. Marina of Thrace (Catherine Zeta-Jones) beloved of Proteus doesn't trust the thief and stows away on board. Smart lady.
There's a time frame imposed on the story as well. Ten days until execution. Which means, as all good epics must, that Sinbad and Co. will not only need a good wind, they'll also have to battle all sorts of monsters and natural storms. All of 'em unlike anything seen.
The first of these monsters is a sort of kind of dragon, plucked from the stars of the zodiac. Yes, it is a computer generated piece of work but the battle sequence is the most phenomenal bit of tooning we've seen. Told you we'd get back to this. Consider: this is a flying, spineless creature wriggling and twisting all around the ship. It's skin a shifting, complicated pattern of colors. Jaw dropping, stunning work.
That kind of work continues throughout the film, as Sinbad battles snow demons and the like. A lot of the CG background material in Sinbad is so beautiful that it makes the flat, hand animated lead characters look, well, flat. This is nothing a child would notice and, short of any other adult 'toonhead out there complaining, the story seems strong enough overall that it won't bother adults.
So much works about Sinbad that we're going to rate, making the assumption (which we know we shouldn't do) that the character setups were as strong as the story and animation. We did see the resolution coming, but that's not hard when you've sat for forty years of moving pictures.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Sinbad, he would have paid . . .
The animation alone is worth eight of that nine. Even with the projection problems, Sinbad enchanted us in a manner that an earlier fish 'toon did not.
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