Wipe out

“Whaddya mean there’s no such thing as the Life Saver Fairy?”

“Whaddya mean there’s no such thing as the Life Saver Fairy?”

Rated 1.0

The Poseidon Adventure back in 1972 was a great, goofy movie. As silly as it was, it managed some decent drama due to a cast that included Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters and my hero Ernest Borgnine.

Poseidon, a $160 million remake with Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss collecting paychecks and getting wet while grimacing, is a bubble-headed dud.

This is surprising, what with Wolfgang Petersen at the helm. He’s responsible for two of the better “water” pictures out there with Das Boot and The Perfect Storm among his credits. Regrettably, it appears that Wolfgang and company were just going through the motions for this one. It attempts nothing new with the premise and manages to be cornier than the original—and not in a good way.

Russell plays a former New York City mayor (whatever) who is traveling on a big cruise ship with his daughter and her fiancé (Emmy Rossum and Mike Vogel). Lucas is a career gambler who preys upon drunken poker players on boats (nice job). When a rogue wave capsizes the boat, survivors must travel to the ship’s bottom (now the top) to get out the propeller shafts and hopefully find safety.

The film plays as if Petersen set out to make a different movie but then re-cut it to remove all of the character backdrop and dialogue. It feels like parts of the movie are missing. For example, the scummy character played by Kevin Dillon, basically the grouser of the piece, barely shows up in the film before having some sort of major grudge against the Lucas and Russell characters. The character has no reason whatsoever to berate the two, yet he rips into them like they sassed his mother.

There are continuity and editing issues, too. In another instance, a character spends quite a few minutes with his legs pinned under a steel rigging that fell on him. Others struggle to free him, and when they finally do, it’s revealed that he’s sustained a bad cut. A brief shot of his wound shows that it looks pretty serious, and it should be because his legs probably would’ve been crushed. No matter, because he’s up and running around with the rest of them in a matter of seconds, no treatment necessary, no limp evident.

Yes, I would accept mess-ups like this in a film that delivered on the action-packed goods, but this one fails. The special effects and set pieces are surprisingly bland. As for ships sinking, James Cameron did far better nearly 10 years ago with Titanic, and Petersen himself did a much better job sinking a small fishing boat in The Perfect Storm.

For such a big movie, the film boasts many scenes of actors stuffed in small places or running around in bland gray rooms looking for escape hatches. There are a few big set pieces, but they fail to impress visually. A decent opportunity for some major scary drama is wasted as the majority of the survivors die off-screen after the area they occupy is flooded. I was waiting for the big moment where the water rushes in, but it never happened. They settle for a shot of the ship’s captain with an “Oh shit!” look on his face, hugging a lounge singer. Cut to Russell and company hearing screams from another locale. What a rip off!

I expect that Poseidon is a better experience for those unfamiliar with the original picture. No doubt, some of the fun is lost on those who know how things turned out for characters in the first film. Still, the movie fails to generate major excitement on any level, and that’s a sad state of things for a film that features a big ocean liner getting flipped by a wave.

Finally, how could you have Richard Dreyfuss in your maritime disaster film and not get him to say something along the lines of, “This was not a boating accident!” A wasted opportunity.