May 14, 2006

Movie Review: Poseidon

Did we really need another version of The Poseidon Adventure? We already have the original film, plus the recent television remake. I mean, honestly, is Hollywood become so bereft of original ideas, that they feel the need to revisit old disaster flicks? It must be hard to come up with a new disaster idea. At the very least, they could have taken an old idea and added some new ideas to the mix. I have seen the word "perfunctory" used to describe the film, and it seems like a good use of the term. It accurately describes the film in a single word.

Poseidon, whether we really needed the film or not, has brought up a dilemma inside this critics mind. You see, I can derive equal pleasure from the great artistic films, films that are deemed important and such, as I can from the so-called popcorn films. Sometimes it is hard to balance the two sides in order to deliver an accurate review. This is one of those movies that I found to be rather entertaining, in a dumb sort of way, but not terribly good.

This movie is like disaster paint by numbers. Any type of development is thrust to the side in favor of getting on to the next set piece in the sequence. Under normal circumstances, I would think it would be important to actually develop the characters that you are about to kill. This film takes a different attack vector. Forget the characters, give them a couple of lines to broadly define their character, flip the boat, and start shrinking the group down with a variety of roadblocks.

The funny, or perhaps sad, thing about Poseidon, is that I found myself smiling giddily throughout. I found it to be absolutely hilarious. That translated to me actually having fun with this subpar outing. As the wave hit, I was completley amused by the falling people, the crashing furniture, the thinning of the herd, if you will.

The dialog was funny, these characters took themselves so seriously, and they were chartacterized so thinly that I did not make any emotional connections with our intrepid band. This let me sit back, shutdown, and let the wacky events unfold and wash over me like a rogue wave. I sat there predicting, usually successfully, who would live and who would die.

I was reminded of playing old Nintendo action games. You remember the games, you control a character along a defined path, and when the programmers meant for you to alter your path, they would put something in your way. You never had a choice, it may seem like you had one, but not really. You continued along the predetermined path until you reached the end of the game. This movie is like that. The group moves along a predetermined course of action, the sequence of events is inevitable.

Joining us on our trip through the bowels of the ship are a professional gambler who spent some time on a submarine(Josh Lucas), a former firefighter and ex-mayor of New York(Kurt Russell), his daughter(Emmy Rossum), and her boyfriend(Mike Vogel), a single mother and her son(Jacinda Barrett and Jimmy Bennett), a stowaway(Mia Maestro), a drunk(Kevin Dillon), and a businessman(Richard Dreyfuss). Those descritions are all you really need to know, as that is all you really get.

The story is as simple as it gets, wave hits a big boat, boat flips, small group of determined survivors look for a way out. That's it, if you expect anything more, you will be sorely disapointed.

As they make their way through the ship, I found myself hoping for more dead bodies on the other side of the various doors. Morbid, I know, but there so many people, and Petersen kept having bodies float by in the water, or laying under debris. Between that and waiting for the next silly line, I was completely entertained.

The acting was subpar. Whoever keeps thinking that Josh Lucas is a leading man should try watching some of his movies. Kurt Russell is a cut above, he works here much like Jeff Bridges in Stick It. The ladies all looked great, but the characters were thin. The guys, while all being ugly and repulsive (Seinfeld anyone?), were just as thin.

The best thing about the movie is the ship. It looks good, and most of the effects were convincing. Wolfgang Petersen and Director of Photography, John Seale, do a good jobn trying to bring believeability to the film, it looks good.

Bottomline. Fun paint by numbers. Nothing memorable, or even necessary. The film was fun, pure dumb fun. If you want a story or characters, look elsewhere. This works as a cinematic diversion while you wait for better fare to arrive. It's to the point that I am not sure I can justify the rating you see below, but I stand by it. Sometimes I get suckered by the dumb popcorn flicks.

Mildly Recommended.
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