Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38
  1. The director of "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" scores his most funny-sad movie to date.
  2. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Aquatic maintains its buoyancy throughout.
  3. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    For those of us who think this is the best comedy of 2004, the genius of the movie lies in its relocation.
  4. An exquisitely evocative movie that elevates rueful melancholia to a superpower.
  5. Like the old and creaky Belafonte, the film itself seems forever on the brink of drifting away. But it's the kind of drifting that's nothing but enjoyable. In fact, it's beyond enjoyable - heading into waters full of whimsy, mystery and odd, psychedelic fish.
  6. Wonderfully weird and wistful adventure-comedy about a fish-out-of-water oceanographer.
  7. The actor's (Murray) quiet, downcast presence modulates the antic busyness that encircles him, and his performance is a triumph of comic minimalism.
  8. Funny, bewildering, giddy spectacle.
  9. 75
    Intermittently brilliant, intermittently hilarious -- and occasionally tedious.
  10. 75
    Wilson drops the ironic smirk to give a sincerely affecting performance. His scenes with Murray provide the ballast when the script veers off into unconvincing pirate attacks and animated sea creatures.
  11. A movie deeply immersed in movie lore, and the more seasoned the swimmer the richer the experience.
  12. Wes Anderson's movies taste that way to me. They're dryly funny, well-acted, never less than quirkily entertaining. But they're never more, either.
  13. It's almost a great movie. For half of its running time, Anderson maintains a distinct and arresting tone of vague absurdity, and then he loses control and the film begins to dip into silliness. Individual scenes become labored. Yet even at its worst, The Life Aquatic is always interesting -- there's really nothing else like it.
  14. Hovers frustratingly somewhere between charming and only mildly amusing.
  15. 70
    Nobody could leave The Life Aquatic without the impression of having nearly drowned in some secret and melancholy game.
  16. 70
    Even when caught in a rut, Anderson's obsessive vision still yields many exhilarating surprises.
  17. As someone who has warmed up to Anderson's work only gradually, I'd call this a step back for him, but I also can't help but wonder: Will he ever take that crucial step forward and stop saying, Isn't it ironic?
  18. None of it is truly inspired, but Murray's deadpan presence holds it all together.
  19. 67
    A fascinating, masterly, frustrating film, it only passingly touches on the heart and sharpness of Anderson's previous work and rather brings to mind the famous complaint of the emperor in "Amadeus": "too many notes."
  20. 63
    It is not as engaging as "The Royal Tenenbaums," but about on par with "Rushmore" and "Bottle Rocket."
  21. 63
    The damnedest film. I can't recommend it, but I would not for one second discourage you from seeing it.
  22. Murray is always pleasurable company, and his barely suppressed soulfulness might've supported this dawdling big-fish story if its insistent larkiness had abated and let a little reality in, as had "Rushmore."
  23. 60
    Somewhere buried beneath all this ballast something is being said, again, about flawed middle-aged men falling from grace and redeeming themselves. This time I'm damned if I know what that something is.
  24. Noah Baumbach collaborated on the arch script, whose bittersweet weirdness leaves a residue even as the narrative disintegrates.
  25. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    The garish, exotic, retro styling is Anderson at his visual best. In terms of character and sensibility, though, this is sadly Anderson at his worst.
  26. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    The effect is often soporific.
  27. There's a lot to appreciate here, especially Mr. Murray's variations on the sad but hopeful soul he played in "Rushmore" (and in "Lost In Translation"). Yet meanings get lost in a clutter of cleverness.
  28. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Nothing but attitude.
  29. 50
    Overburdened with knowingly charming touches. It's waterlogged with whimsy.
  30. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    This one is a mess--a misshapen, mawkish tragicomedy bordering on self-parody. Its ambitions deserve respect, though.
  31. The more technically proficient Anderson gets as a filmmaker, the more emotionally barren his movies become, till at last The Life Aquatic drowns in a sea of self-indulgent touches that delight the filmmaker but distance the filmgoer who wants to love the director and his characters but just can't, not anymore.
  32. A comedy that seems to have most everything going for it but the ability to make us laugh.
  33. 50
    The movie still feels strangely inert; it's an adventure in which nothing ever really seems to happen.
  34. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    The film's meta-fey title alone is an example of why some people adore Anderson and why he drives others absolutely crazy.
  35. Reviewed by: Pete Vonder Haar
    Will ultimately be remembered more for the trademark Anderson look than for any of its characters or any emotional impact.
  36. 40
    It's so cool all the life has drained away, leaving nothing behind but a faint whiff of attitude.
  37. If there's anything more tiresome in film today than hip irony, it is forced irony, and here comes a boatload with Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
  38. 25
    It's the strangest comic misfire yet from Wes Anderson.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 249 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 95 out of 142
  2. Negative: 37 out of 142
  1. Jan 29, 2014
    Not everbodys cup of tea, but I love it. The film is as always with director Anderson semi-crazy, semi-funny and beautifully made. You simplyNot everbodys cup of tea, but I love it. The film is as always with director Anderson semi-crazy, semi-funny and beautifully made. You simply don't have a clue were the story is going, you just ride with it and enjoy it. Actors Dafoe, Blanchett and Huston are great. The others are good. The music score is fantastic. Full Review »
  2. Jan 4, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. Wes Anderson's, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou takes the audience into the world of an aging oceanographer and documentarian by the name of Steve Zissou, played by Bill Murray. He is at a point in his life where his once profound ego is shattering before him and he questions his life's work. His best friend is eaten alive by a supposed "Jaguar Shark" and Murray and his film team will embark on one final expedition to find and kill the shark in the name of revenge.

    While the storytelling in this movie can be rather slow at times it allows the viewers to create a better understanding of the protagonist of the film and some of the supporting characters. Murray fantastically portrays his character, showing how he deals with his reality around him and his ego, and how he reacts rather apathetically to them, although aware of them. Owen Wilson plays as Murray's supposed son, Ned, and portrays him to be a very likable character who simply wishes to know the father he always wanted to. The two share a decent at worst chemistry. Cate Blanchett plays as Jane Winslett-Richardson, a journalist who masterfully plays her part and serves as a minor romantic interest for both Murray and Owens. Bud Cort plays a "Bond Company Stooge", but instantly shows his characters great character and is very likable.

    The plot does sometimes loose its focus, but never should leave you bored as it simply devotes parts of the movie not about the search for the shark to Murray's character and that of his crew. The way in which the sea life are portrayed and the soundtrack give the film a somewhat 'whimsical' factor, and fits the atmosphere of the film very well. The final reveal of the shark is also extremely well shot and acted.

    In the end this film is somewhat of an unappreciated piece of art, and it should be watched by all those interested in plot and characters more than action and suspense.
    Full Review »
  3. Jul 9, 2012
    The Life Aquatic is colorful, poignant and very, very funny. It has a high level of random insanity that never fails to induce chuckles. TheThe Life Aquatic is colorful, poignant and very, very funny. It has a high level of random insanity that never fails to induce chuckles. The cast is magnificent, the script is awesome and stuffed full of quotable lines and the effects are hilariously charming. This is one of Anderson's best movies and a must see for Bill Murray fans. Full Review »