Who: Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, Kevin Dillon, Andre Braugher
What: A remake of 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure”
Where: in your local multiplex
When: this weekend
Why: That’s the real question, isn’t it? Why did this movie get made?
The obvious answer is that the film studio thought that audiences would pay money to see some state-of-the-art special effects of a cruise ship getting turned upside-down by a giant “rogue wave.” To the filmmakers’ credit, that scene is terrifically rendered. What follows, however, is a suprisingly unmoving and pessimistic journey filled with forgettable character stereotypes and no sense of humor.
|Russell and Lucas extinguish any hope of a good movie|
Wolfgang Peterson directed “The Perfect Storm,” so he’s no stranger to lots of water and life-or-death situations. But once the Poseidon, a luxury line boat out on a New Year’s cruise and filled with people who can afford it, gets manhandled by nature and turned into a giant floating coffin, the drama ends. The cardboard generalizations that pass as characters in this movie have a small amount of time to search for an exit before the ship sinks and resolve all their life’s drama in the process. Thank God it only takes them a merciful 90 minutes to do it.
It is almost as if there were more to these passengers originally and, realizing in the editing room that they were a complete bore, Peterson instructed their “development” to be edited out. Dreyfuss never leaves the group but is oddly silent for the whole last segment. Mind you, I’m not complaining that we needed more of him, I’m just pointing it out to show that I’m not the only one who thinks we needed less of these people.
There are two ways to go with this kind of material– play it as high camp like Shelley Winters in the original, or go for the gritty horror of it all. You can’t have it both ways, and “Poseidon” tries to do this, failing throughout. The hordes of dead bodies from the original impact become nothing more than set dressing as the mostly white (and soon, all white) cast wander the dark and treacherous rooms of the boat with unconvincing dread. Kevin Dillon briefly appears to liven things up as a stereotype of a stereotypical alcoholic ladies man, but is soon punished for knowing what kind of film he is in.
It’s a cheesy disaster flick, for chrissakes! Dillon hits all the right over-the-top notes that Lucas and Russell seem incapable of delivering because they were probably restrained by Peterson, who wanted to take this sinking obstacle course seriously. The tone is all wrong, meandering from forced sincerity a whole two inches over to pompous weightiness in a single scene, like when Andre Braugher, in a glorified cameo, addresses the rich New Year’s partygoers with some poetic verse-y bullshit about man conquering the sea and then turns the mic over to Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas for some disco dancing.
So what are we to take from that kind of behavior? Is there a half-hearted serious message about human beings’ hubris in the face of nature? Yes. Is there some lazy, confused message about racial minorites, sexual politics and religion? Sure, there is. A latino kitchen worker is sacrificed so that gay AND suicidal millionaire Dreyfuss can live, amidst shots of racial minorites’ bodies littering the service areas of the ship. Dreyfuss later takes the cross pendant worn by another not-so-lucky latino whose religion wasn’t enough to save her.
All the while, our plucky group of survivors perform silly and not-so amazing feats and take the high road, literally and figuratively, as they tell each other what they must, struggling to reach the top of the ship. If Peterson would have committed to purposeful camp or gritty realism, “Poseidon” would have been a different movie– a watchable one.