Starring: Kurt Russell, Joshua Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss
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Review: Review by Christy Lemire, Associated Press
(Los Angeles, California) Long before the big wave hits in Poseidon, the first sign of trouble comes from looking at the cast list.
Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett - they're all too good-looking. Not an Ernest Borgnine or a Shelley Winters among 'em.
This pretty much tells you all you need to know about director Wolfgang Petersen's remake of the 1972 cult disaster classic The Poseidon Adventure: it's all splash and no substance. Not a single person is physically capable of uttering anything like Winters' famous line, "In the water, I'm a very skinny lady," which she delivered before her character died quite convincingly of a heart attack. Laugh if you will, but the performance earned her an Oscar nomination, one of eight the film received.
Not that you're looking for much meat in an underwater blockbuster to be visually wowed. Here, the effects are so big and shiny and slick they often look completely fake, like some computer-generated promotional video for a cruise line.
Up close in cramped, soaked quarters, though, Petersen does know how to create a visceral sensation of claustrophobia _ which by now seems to be his specialty, having also directed Das Boot and The Perfect Storm.
But it would be helpful to care about whether or not these scrappy passengers on a doomed New Year's voyage drown once the boat capsizes; in this contemporized version, the characters are rendered so shrilly and superficially, they make sympathy nearly impossible.
In retrospect director Ronald Neame's original does look campy, with Borgnine and Gene Hackman sopping wet and screaming at each other, and Carol Lynley, as the ship's lounge singer, traipsing around in short-shorts and go-go boots. But the film cared about character development. You got to know the members of this motley crew as they banded together and climbed frantically through the upside-down vessel, searching for an escape.
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And the film was considered spectacular in its day, so much so that it earned a special-achievement Oscar for visual effects.
This time you have Lucas, in one of the all-time, laugh-out-loud bad performances as smug professional gambler Dylan Johns, competing for control of the group with Russell's Robert Ramsey, who's mocked for his famous bravery as a former firefighter who became New York City mayor. Learning his identity drew unintended guffaws from critics in Manhattan.
Rossum plays Ramsey's spoiled, impudent daughter, who pouts about wanting to marry her boyfriend (blonde pretty-boy Mike Vogel) during some of the most intense moments of crisis. Kevin Dillon plays an obnoxious drunk named Lucky Larry who's almost as pathetic as Dillon's Entourage character.
Richard Dreyfuss, among the strongest actors in this thing, is relegated to whining and sniveling after his character's boyfriend leaves him for another man, then whining and sniveling some more as the situation grows more dire. And Andre Braugher, who was so great for so long on Homicide: Life on the Street, just stands around feebly as the ballroom floods - and he's playing the ship's captain.
The only vaguely likable characters are Barrett's single-mother Maggie and her nine-year-old son, Conor (Jimmy Bennett), but even they're not fleshed out sufficiently in the script from Mark Protosevich to make us feel for them.
Everyone's plight quickly grows repetitive. They climb a bit, they get soaked, someone almost drowns, something explodes, they climb some more - all to the tune of overblown, frenzied music.
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"There's got to be a morning after," went the Oscar-winning song from the original. In Poseidon, daylight can't come soon enough.
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