To paraphrase Robert Frost, I’d as soon play tennis with the net down as listen to Brad Pitt ”star” as the animated title-hero of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. There’s something structurally amiss in gussying up an average adventure saga, unexceptionally reinterpreted, with the aural celebrity appeal of Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Catherine Zeta-Jones – three unseen marquee faces, two of which are attached to voices unlikely to be indentified by blindfolded fans. (At least I’d know and welcome Pfeiffer’s playful purr anywhere.)
The origins of the tale are more than a thousand years old – the exploits of the cheeky, ocean-going playboy were part of ”The Arabian Nights” long before Douglas Fairbanks Jr. played the rogue swashbuckler in 1947 or cult animator Ray Harryhausen worked his ”Dynamation” stop-action wonders with ”The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” in 1958.
But this voyage is strictly one for the disposable present, however quaintly old-fashioned the hand-drawn work that the animators have blended with 3D effects. (Tots will twitch during the grown-up relationship parts, and teens will groan at the kiddie sops.) While producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and his team cite Greek fables among their inspirations, Pitt plays his bebop-bearded vagabond like a sitcom ”Pirate Dude of the Seas.”
Pfeiffer, for her part, plays Eris, the Goddess of Chaos, like a Catwoman of the Recording Studio, dishing plans to wreck the friendship of the sailor and his princely childhood comrade, Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), by framing Sinbad for a theft punishable by death. (The mythic Book of Peace has gone missing, but it might as well be the Toothpick of Gold.)
Catherine Zeta-Jones, meanwhile, is in some chaos of her own about how to play Marina, she of the perfunctory feistiness, who is betrothed to Proteus but hankers to be a piratess. Not given much guidance, (including any advice on whether to keep her Welsh accent), the Oscar-winner pitches her character somewhere between that of Mulan and Pippi Longstocking.