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The Life Aquatic (15)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

The regular readers of this column will both be aware that I made a few predictions for this year's Oscar ceremony and I am glad to say I don't think I embarrassed myself too much. Five out of my seven predictions came true, and although I thought The Aviator would win Best Picture, I did also say that I thought Million Dollar Baby was a better film, so I'm glad the members of the Academy saw sense on that one. It's just a shame Clive Owen didn't pick up the award he surely deserved.

Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and a pregnant Cate Blanchett
Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and a pregnant Cate Blanchett

This week's film actually features one of the winners from this year's Oscars, as well as three past nominees and a British acting legend. Wes Anderson has put together a very strong cast for his latest film, featuring the likes of Michael Gambon (Gosford Park), Owen Wilson (all Wes Anderson films, Starsky & Hutch, Meet The Parents), Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, Jurassic Park), Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, The Aviator) and Bill Murray (Lost In Translation). I think you'll agree, there's some serious pedigree there.

The film follows Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a rather eccentric and under-funded documentary maker, who captains a team of bizarre individuals who specialise in aquatic wildlife. The story opens with the premiere of Team Zissou's latest film, in which a valued member of the team gets eaten by a new species of shark, dubbed the Jaguar Shark. However, like the rest of Zissou's recent films, it flops, not least because people believe the events in the film are pure fiction.

Later the same evening, Steve's long lost son Ned (Owen Wilson) appears, joins Team Zissou and is given the standard issue blue tracksuit, red bobble hat and Glock semi-automatic sidearm. The team set off to find the Jaguar Shark, accompanied by a reporter (Cate Blanchett) and get up to all kinds of mischief along the way.

Wes Anderson has made use of a lot of dry humour, amusing scenarios and some wonderful characters to create a very weird and funny film here, which has a great deal of charm about it. Team Zissou's boat itself is a strange contraption, in that it is a scale model of a boat sawn in half, so the director can film the internal scenes through the open side – a fact the director purposely lets the audience in on. The red bobble hat worn by the members of Team Zissou is meant to be one of many references to the famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, although I think the ensemble is undeniably reminiscent of the Smurfs! However, as I seem to be the only one who has noticed that, I'll probably be left to formulate my own conspiracy theories on that one.

You can always tell a Wes Anderson film by the following characteristics: it stars Owen Wilson, is advertised as a riotous comedy and turns out to be a bizarre black comedy that deals with the darker aspects of life and people's characters. This one is no exception, and manages a fantastic balance of being ridiculous and serious at the same time. If you saw and enjoyed Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums, then this is a must-see, but if not, it is still definitely worth a look, because it is one of the funniest and strangest films I've seen for a while.

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Length: 118 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site: http://lifeaquatic.movies.go.com/main.html
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362270/
Release Date: 25th February 2005

Top Five Rating: 80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0% (80.0%)
User Rating: 80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0% (80.0%)

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