Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (U)

In many ways the pairing of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta Jones is dream casting: he’s Hollywood’s reigning hunk and she epitomises the new blood into old Tinseltown royalty that America adores.

Still, audiences can’t have everything so Pitt and Zeta Jones are only heard, and not seen, in this rollercoaster ride through myth and magic courtesy of those wonderfully inventive people at Dreamworks.

This terrific animated adventure didn’t fare too well in the US, though in truth it’s a throwback to those brilliant old movies from people like Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, the latter being the stop-motion maestro who brought us Jason and the Argonauts.

The same classical stories have been pillaged to present Sinbad, in which the Pitt-voiced pirate – a hero cut from the same cloth as Douglas Fairbanks Snr, all swagger, grin and acrobatics – confronts Eris, the Goddess of Chaos (Michelle Pfeiffer) to win back the precious Book of Peace.

En-route he falls in love with Marina (Zeta Jones), the girl of his best friend Prince Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), battles behemoths from the stars (a nice touch) and sails his ship to the very ends of the Earth (“See, I told you it was flat!” exclaims one righteous seaman).

Sinbad has an epic feel that adults will appreciate while children soak up the action and adventure. The celebrity voices are pretty inconsequential at the end of the day as audiences soak up the wondrous nature of the (albeit simplistic) story being laid before them.

Throw in the supporting tones of Dennis (24) Haysbert and Yorkshire’s Timothy West and this rapidly becomes a quality cast to believe in. And with a script (by John Logan, previously responsible for Gladiator and the forthcoming Tom Cruise vehicle The Last Samurai) that dispenses with songs, annoying background characters and lame humour, Sinbad emerges as a way above average slice of animation that is intelligent, engaging and never less than compelling.

Not bad for an 85-minute potted version of the classics – despite its grating Americanisms.

Parents may wish to note that while the film contains “mild violence and perilous moments”, according to the British Board of Film Classification, a scene involving a headbutt was cut to achieve a ‘U’ certificate.

Star rating: ***

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