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Uninspired 'Sinbad' isn't a big draw

ITS STORY IS UNINVOLVED — Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is a misfire in almost every direction.

Its story is uninvolved - a surprise, given the source material(s). Its animation is uninspired. Its voices are unmemorable. And its pitch is uncannily off - too high-toned for kids, too slapdash for adults and too all-over-the-map to have come from the same studio that gave the world Shrek just two years ago.

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In a careless mishmash of Arab, Roman and Greek legends (with a little Pete the Pirate thrown in), Sinbad portrays the titular hero (voiced by Brad Pitt, who's not a star because of his voice) as a swashbuckler out to steal what- ever's within reach. The treasure at hand is the all-powerful Book of Peace, which holds the power to keep the city of Syracuse safe (and no, there's not an Orangeman in sight). Just as Sinbad's about to make off with the book, it is revealed that its protector is our hero's estranged boyhood friend, Proteus (Joseph Fiennes).

The two gab a lot about the old days, and Proteus insists that this thief is not the Sinbad he once knew. Maybe he's right: Sinbad, at first, doesn't steal the book. But then the goddess of Chaos, Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), enters the picture and persuades him to return to his evil ways.

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Still, he eventually refuses - especially after getting an eyeful of Proteus' hottie fiancee, Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But Eris, that minx, makes everyone believe Sinbad stole the book anyway. Soon his head is on the chopping block, but he's rescued by Proteus, who vows to sacrifice his own life if Sinbad does not do the honorable thing and retrieve the book.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of the studio's animation arm, has put great stock in what he's tagged "tradigital," a combination of traditional and computer-assisted animation that's supposed to represent the best of both worlds. But even the best animation isn't worth much if it's in service to a lousy story - and outside of the studio's first effort, The Prince of Egypt, the stories have been at best lightweight (The Road to El Dorado) or easily forgettable (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron).

At least the latter two were pleasant to look at; Sinbad isn't even that. Ships sailing through the water look like nothing so much as paper cutouts being pulled by a string along a water-colored surface, the big chase scenes are strictly Saturday-morning-cartoon stuff and the characters look like they were pulled from generic central-casting warehouse on the fringes of 'Toontown.

It's no accident much of the merchandising associated with Sinbad has more to do with next summer's Shrek 2 than this movie. There's still hope the big green ogre and his pals may display some of the old charm, while Sinbad is strictly DOA.

Sinbad

Starring The voices of Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer

Directed by Tim Johnson and Patrick Gilmore

Rated PG (adventure action, some mild sensuality and brief language)

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Released by DreamWorks SKG

Time 86 minutes

SUN SCORE *


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