Life Aquatic has an odd, lumpy shape and never hits a consistent rhythm -- I'm not saying that it wanted to have a smooth shape or a rhythm, though, since it floats serenely along, like some bizarre denizen of the deep ocean, perfectly content to be what it is. Murray is at the center, and everything else revolves around him. It's all basically a comedy, though there's a lot of strife, danger, and real loss along the way.
It's the kind of movie that's best explained by listing the people in it, so...
- Anjelica Houston is Zissou's wife, Eleanor, whose rich parents originally bankrolled their expeditions and who, in what seems like a running joke, is always described as the brains of Team Zissou
- Jeff Goldblum is Zissou's greatest rival (and Eleanor's ex-husband), Alistair Hennessey
- Willem Defoe is Klaus Daimler, now Zissou's right-hand man (after his long-time best friend was eaten by a "jaguar shark" on his last outing)
- Owen Wilson is Ned Plimpton (aka Kingsley Zissou), who may be Zissou's long-lost illegitimate son, and who definitely is a Southern airline pilot and new member of Team Zissou
- Michael Gambon is Zissou's agent, Oseary Drakoulias (whose very name seems like a deeply inside joke that I didn't catch)
- and Cate Blanchett is the pregnant British journalist Jane Winslett-Richardson, who is probably going to write a cover story for a National Geographic-esque magazine on Zissou, but may turn it into a hatchet piece along the way (and who is also falling in love with Ned)
In the end, the best was to describe The Life Aquatic is the way I did up top: it's a Wes Anderson film. If you've enjoyed his other pictures, you'll probably like this one. But if "indy"-style filmmaking annoys you, stay far away.