Starring: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, Andre Braugher, Mike Vogel
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Defamer has a running joke in their trade round-up section called “Hollywood Out of Ideas Part (insert impossibly high number here).” It’s one of those ‘if we don’t laugh, we’ll never stop crying’ kinds of jokes, since Hollywood is clearly all about shoveling big piles of familiarity down our throats these days. The worst part is that they’re more aware of what we want than we would care to admit. Both the “Dukes of Hazzard” movie and the remake of “When a Stranger Calls” made money for their respective studios. And, all things being cyclical, it was only a matter of time before the disaster movies of the ‘70s received a makeover, since the disaster genre experienced a brisk revival 10 summers ago, thanks to “Twister” and “Independence Day.”
So let’s throw out the obvious question of “why” when it comes to “Poseidon,” the remake of 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure,” because there is no why. If anything, it’s surprising a remake hadn’t happened yet. I’m not one of those people who think the original was above reproach – Ernest Borgnine, God love him, chews up his scenery like he’d been fasting the five weeks before shooting – but as Bill Hicks once said, the only way we’re going to get off this rock is if we evolve as a species. “Poseidon” is not going to help us in that endeavor, but I will confess: it is one hell of a distraction.
The first five minutes, 10 minutes tops, are spent developing the characters, and nary a thought is wasted on that inconvenient device from then on. Dylan (Josh Lucas) is a former Navy submariner turned high stakes gambler. Robert (Kurt Russell) used to be a fireman and, oddly enough, mayor of New York. His daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), is engaged to boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel), but is too afraid to tell her controlling father. Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) is gay, and we know that because he has a diamond earring. Maggie (Jacinda Barrett) has a son Conor (Jimmy Bennett), and that is all you need to know about them. Oh, and there’s a stowaway (Mia Maestro from “Alias”) that wouldn’t stay in her room like she was told. Rogue wave hits, all hell breaks loose. Hell, they don’t even explain the origin of the rogue wave (undersea earthquake). This movie is all about the action and the special effects.
Which makes it a damn good thing that they at least got those things right. This version of the story is all about the boat, not the people trapped inside it. Even the original had the cop married to the former hooker; the remake has nothing remotely as edgy as that, unless you call a gay character edgy (it’s not, by the way). What it does have, though, is more realism in terms of all of the possible things that can go wrong in a capsized ship. There are scores of electrocutions, a flash fire that vaporizes an entire wing of passengers, and bodies galore floating gracelessly throughout the boat and in the ocean. Director Wolfgang Petersen couldn’t assemble a decent effects shot to save his life in his last movie, “The Perfect Storm,” and while there are a couple groaner shots here and there (I can ‘t tell you the worst one without revealing too much), the initial wave sequence is a good one, with stuff getting blow’d up good. Petersen also does a good job of keeping the tension high, if exhaustively so. If only he had such command of the actors. They’re all awful, with only Russell saving himself, and even he had his questionable moments. Kevin Dillon is enjoying a nice career renaissance thanks to his role on “Entourage,” but his performance here shows why he’s better known as the Eric Roberts of the family.
“Poseidon” is a healthy reminder that nostalgia might be the most powerful drug there is. You know not to expect much, yet the allure is damn near irresistible. Here’s the thing, though: if you must see a blockbuster movie, go see “Mission: Impossible III” instead, even if you are as sick of Tom Cruise as the rest of us are. It’s simply a better movie than this. Odds are, “The Da Vinci Code” and “X-Men: The Last Stand” are, too (though one never knows when Brett Ratner’s at the helm). “Poseidon” has its good points, but when one thinks of the good that could have been done with its reported $140 million budget, it’s rather sickening that they chose to spend it this way.
Oops, they’ve done it again; yet another WB two-disc special edition that doesn’t deserve the extra treatment. Once again, no audio commentary has been provided (probably because the film bombed at the box office) and with the exception of a 22-minute behind-the-scenes featurette (“Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage”) – where we learn that Wolfgang shot the entire film in continuity – the rest of the special features (all 50 minutes worth) have been put on to an entirely separate disc. What? They seriously couldn’t squeeze on just under an hour more of bonus material? The movie isn’t even that long, so what could possibly be taking up all that space? Anyways, the extras that appear on disc two aren’t even that good, including a short featurette on how Production Design constructed the capsized cruise ship (“Poseidon: Upside Down”), a series of crew profiles in disguise as a video diary by PA Malona Voigt (“A Shipmate’s Diary”), and a 28-minute History Channel special about “Rogue Waves.”