This movie never quite jells. Bits and pieces work, and it's always a pleasure to watch Murray have his wondrously dry way with a scene, but for a film in which much of the action takes place aboard ship, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou fails to work up enough of a wind to fill its sails.
The title figure is a famed 52-year-old oceanographer and documentarian going through a rough patch. "I know I haven't been at my best this past decade," Zissou (Murray) says, an understatement given his rocky marriage and tanking box office. He is a burnt-out case and he knows it, but that doesn't stop him from trying to impress a worshipful young man who may be his son (Wilson) and a pregnant journalist (Blanchett, in another crisply amusing performance), both of whom tag along on Zissou's latest expedition.
Director-cowriter Wes Anderson, who managed to stay on the right side of preciousness with his idiosyncratic earlier films, Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, crosses the line this time. Aquatic seems willfully eccentric without ever letting the rest of us in on the joke. (R)