Wes Anderson squanders his karma on a parody of Jacques Cousteau that’s all dead-pan gags and insubstantial irony. Oceanographer and documentary-maker Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) decides to avenge the death of his “Jaguar Shark”-eaten friend Esteban by hunting down the dreaded predator. Joining him (and “Team Zissou”) on the good ship “Belafonte” is “son” Ned (Owen Wilson) — on leave from Air Kentucky — and pregnant, bubblegum-chewing journalist Jane (Cate Blanchett).
Anderson, who milked wry humor from Murray in “Rushmore,” is clueless this time around. Zissou is a self-styled “showboat and a prick” with a penchant for little red caps and Speedos, but Anderson can’t get a handle on him. “Who’s going tell us the Latin names of all the fishes?” Zissou asks wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) when she bolts the Jaguar hunt. “You know we don’t know that shit.” It gets worse on the trip, as in: “Hey intern, get me a Lattè” and “I haven’t been myself for the last decade.”
The rest is Filipino pirates, a three-legged dog named Cody, the abandoned Hotel Citroen on the Ping Islands, and a crewmember (Brazilian songwriter Seu Jorge) who strums acoustic David Bowie in Portuguese. “We haven’t made a hit documentary in nine years,” manager Oseary Drakoulias (Michael Gambon) warns Zissou before the hunt. Anderson had better hurry up and make for this calamity. Even Murray knows better than to smile.