xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
My rational mind informs me that this movie doesn't work. Yet I hear a subversive whisper: Since it does so many other things, does it have to work, too? Can't it just exist? "Terminal whimsy," I called it on the TV show. Yes, but isn't that better than half-hearted whimsy, or no whimsy at all? Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" is the damnedest film. I can't recommend it, but I would not for one second discourage you from seeing it.
To begin with, it has a passage of eerie beauty, in which the oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his shipmates glide in a submarine past an undersea panorama of wondrous and delightful creatures. They are seeking the dreaded jaguar shark that ate Steve's beloved partner, and when they find it, well, they fall silent and just regard it, because it's kind of beautiful. This could have been a scene from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" if Captain Nemo had been a pothead.
Zissou is, we learn, the auteur of a series of increasingly uneventful undersea documentaries, in which the momentum is sliding down a graph that will intersect in the foreseeable future with a dead standstill. "The Life Aquatic" opens with the premiere of his latest work, which ends with the audience gazing up at the screen as if it is more interesting now that it is blank. Zissou himself seems to be in the later stages of entropy and may become one of those Oliver Sacks people who just sit there on the stairs for decades, looking at you. His crew would seem slack-witted to SpongeBob.
On board the good ship Belafonte, Zissou has assembled his ex-wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston), her ex-husband Alistair (Jeff Goldblum), the salty dog Klaus Daimler (Willem Dafoe), the plummy producer Oseary Drakoulias (Michael Gambon), and the financial guy Bill (Bud Cort, so that's what happened to him). Along the way they collect Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), who thinks he may be Steve's son, although my theory is he's just another one of George Plimpton's unfinished projects. Their mission is to find the deadly shark, exact revenge, and film the adventure. Covering the expedition is Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), whose surname suggests she is the result of an affair involving the matriarchs of two great acting families and a designated male, perhaps Ned's birth father.