This Sinbads precursors are not so much the beguiling stop-motion Ray Harryhausen productions, dating back to 1958s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, but the Indiana Jones and James Bond franchises, from which the cartoon swipes its escapes through treacherous waters and down icy mountainsides. Pirates have nothing on screenwriters and studio executives when it comes to plundering; beware buccaneers driving Porsche Cayennes. But were it not for the high-priced talent heard but not seen Michelle Pfeiffers in a cartoon, and Carnie Wilsons in Playboy, said an aggrieved Howard Stern last week Sinbad could well have been dry-docked on video shelves. With its now-familiar blend of traditional 2-D animated characters and shimmering 3-D computer-rendered backgrounds, it doesnt leave much of an impression. A feather falling on a beach leaves a bigger mark. The characters all look the same, angular and bland and oddly free of lips. Its as though one artist, or one computer, draws all of these movies.
Children will be entertained by some of Sinbad, with its occasional charges of action followed by loooooong sequences of exposition (Enough talking, growls Pfeiffers evil goddess at one point), but little ones are enamored of any moving image projected on a huge screen in a dark room that provides frigid-air refuge in summer. But word has it that kids at test screenings were far more interested in Sinbads slobbering dog Spike than in the pirate himself, who is voiced by Brad Pitt with volume control still set at Oceans Eleven. DreamWorks, alas, was forced to add several scenes of the marketable mutt, who will be stuffed and heavily retailed.
Sinbad, yet another tale of the storybook pirate fending off monsters while on a quest for a Lost and Mythic Something or Other, tries desperately to play to parents. Wait till Junior asks, Mommy, whats a brothel? after one character holds up a bra dripping with diamonds, which she surmises was pilfered from a whorehouse. The movie, a bigger hodgepodge of samples and stolen riffs than any Puff Daddy production, even fancies itself a made-over African Queen. Sinbad and Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), sail through rough waters, hate and flirt in equal measure, then declare an undeniable love.
Speaking of queens, not since The Road to El Dorado has a studio cartoon played so unabashedly gay. Sinbad is sent on his quest in order to save the life of his old friend Prince Proteus, whom the too-touchy Sinbad says he met during a sword fight. One presumes it wasnt at David Geffens house. Theres copious attention given the hard, dangerously pointy nipples of Kale, a bare-chested first mate voiced by 24s Dennis Haysbert. And theres a long, loving shot of Sinbads partially revealed ass cheek. At least the movie doesnt skimp on accurate portrayals of long voyages at sea in close quarters, where men are men and women.
All Sinbad has going for it is Pfeiffers Eris, the self-proclaimed Goddess of Discord who resembles the wicked women of old Disney the queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs crossed with Maleficent of Sleeping Beauty. Shes a teasing seductress trolling a land of eunuchs, voiced by Pfeiffer as though its last call and shes a little too lonely. She enlivens an otherwise moribund and moralizing tale.