Let's get the bad news out of the way first - - Sinbad is no Shrek. There. We said it. DreamWorks' best ever animation comfortably hangs on to its crown. But now that your expecto-levels have plummeted a few notches, it's time for the good news. Sinbad's certainly no Prince Of Egypt, either...Bolting state-of-the-art animation onto a road (well, ocean) movie plot as old as the hills, the latest from Spielberg's boys swashbuckles its way to a mid-table slot with chirpy competence. You won't love it, but you will really, really like it.
With his buddy Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit, feisty pirate captain Sinbad (Brad Pitt) reluctantly agrees to sail to chaos dimension Tartarus in order to reclaim the Book Of Peace from the clutches of the evil goddess Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer) and... Look, anyone who's ever seen a single other Sinbad movie (and there have been at least a dozen of them) or caught any of Jason And The Argonauts knows how this plays out. Our hero faces assorted challenges en route (sirens, a giant fish, sea monsters, a huge ice bird), swaps cheerful banter with his assortment of comedy shipmates and squabbles endlessly with the token female, before - - of course - - they realise how much they love each other in the final reel.
Plot-wise, Sinbad doesn't have an original idea in its head. But it's not the tale, it's the quality of the telling that gets the movie rattling along. Near-flawless animation is a given these days, but even by the standards of an industry fast approaching perfection, Sinbad throws out a hefty fistful of pick-your-jaw-up-off-the-floor money moments. The opening tussle with a sea monster is just an appetite-whetter: the main course is a sweaty-palmed hurtle off the edge of the (flat) world that'll send your vertigo gland into overdrive.
Then there's the voice cast. Catherine Zeta-Jones for free-thinking heroine Marina is a no-brainer (there are half a dozen Hollywood actresses who could do the part just as well), but handing Sinbad's vocal duties over to Brad Pitt is genius-level casting. Modelling the gait, gestures and facial expressions on the boy Pitt, as well as giving him the too-cool-for-school drawl, results in a dream-ticket adventure-movie hero. Errol Flynn with the agility of Spider-Man poured into a twinkly-eyed, Tippex-toothed bod. Okay, so the bit where we're treated to a flash of Sin-Brad's animo-arse is taking things a tad far, but the rest of Pitt's cartoon transformation is so successful you can forgive the animators the cheeky in-gag.
With John Gladiator Logan's slangy script lacing the action with a handful of decent chortles ("Put a shirt on before you have someone's eye out," Sinbad orders a bare-chested crewman during a cold snap), Legend Of The Seven Seas turns a predictable, kiddie seat-filler into a satisfying adult romp. Oh, and about the irritating, syrupy Disney-esque songs? There aren't any.
An extra action sequence and an ending with less whimper and more bang would have pushed it close to four stars, but Sinbad still carves out a crowd-pleasing slab of swashbuckling adventure.