directed by Wolfgang Petersen
(Warner Bros., 2006)

Whereas The Poseidon Adventure (the 1972 original classic) focused on the characters trying to survive the upside-down-ship-sinking disaster, this incredibly unnecessary remake merely uses its characters for a good excuse to put a lot of cool special effects together and call it a film.

To play these characters, the filmmakers assembled some of my least favorite actors in the world (e.g., Richard Dreyfuss, Kurt Russell). Fortunately, though, the cast includes the angelic Emmy Rossum, who looks extremely good wet, I must say (especially from certain camera angles). Josh Lucas is quite good in his role, although his sudden transformation from a guy who cares only about saving himself to full-fledged, selfless hero is problematic, and I guess you're supposed to pull for the kid to survive, but none of these characters really matter all that much. You would think this kind of life-threatening ordeal would endear the characters to us, but that just doesn't happen. Why develop characters when you can just keep blowing things up? That seems to be the filmmakers' philosophy here.

You already know the story. A rogue wave comes up and knocks the cruise liner Poseidon all the way over, leaving a small group of characters to defy the captain's ill-advised instructions and head upward to try and find a way out through the bottom of the ship. They face all kinds of deadly obstacles on their way, from rising water (duh) to live wires to flash fires and explosions, etc. Some make it, some don't, but it's not like you actually care about any of them. The only thing resembling a subplot involves Robert Ramsey (Russell), his daughter Jennifer (Rossum) and Jennifer's young suitor (Mike Vogel), who hasn't really gained the old man's trust as of yet. Dreyfuss's character is gay for no apparent reason, and we learn next to nothing about the other main characters. Basically, this film has the kind of script that could easily have been written on a napkin during some writer's lunch meeting with the director.

The CGI-laded special effects are pretty good (albeit excessive), but it's just a mistake to build a film around the special effects. I certainly appreciate the filmmakers going to so much trouble to make the climactic first few minutes of the capsizing surprisingly graphic and as real as possible, but it would have served the film well to devote some of that same passion to the script. As it is, the film -- like the ship itself -- sinks more and more with each passing minute.

review by
Daniel Jolley

6 March 2010

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