Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Starring Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett, Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Andre Braugher, Jimmy Bennett, Kevin Dillon, Freddy Rodríguez. (2006, PG-13, 98 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 12, 2006
The anthropomorphized bunnies of Watership Down had more pizzazz than the entire cast of this pointless and histrionic exercise in big-budget Hollywood remakes. Come to think of it, if director Wolfgang Petersen (no stranger to submersibles, he helmed the brilliant, World War II-era U-Boat suspenser Das Boot) had cast his film with no one but a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea-era Peter Lorre, there'd be plenty more sympathy for the soggy characterizations within, but, tough luck for us, Lorre's long-gone dead, and Petersen seems to have lost his once-fine sense of narrative flow in the briny backwash of 2000's The Perfect Storm. That film was a kicky, often gripping summer popcorn movie that had, at its core, a group of characters that you might actually want to spend some time with, were they not all, you know, dead. Nothing approaching the unbridled acting prowess of Mark Wahlberg is on display here, however, and what is watchable – the giant rogue wave that capsizes the gargantuan pleasure-craft Poseidon, various and sundry explosions, waterlogged corpses bob-bob-bobbin' along – is so formulaic and poorly shot that it hardly bears viewing. (Come to think of it, James Cameron did a much better job, giant CGI wave included, nearly two decades ago in The Abyss.) Producer Irwin Allen's 1972 original, The Poseiden Adventure, at least had Shelley Winters and Ernest Borgnine to liven up the disastrous proceedings. Poseidon can only manage Josh Lucas (Glory Road) and Kurt Russell, who seems to be phoning it in from Planet Plissken. The story, if not the stakes, remains the same: On New Year's Eve, at the stroke of midnight, the good ship Poseidon is spun ass-over-teacup by a killer wave, trapping the passengers in a suddenly upside-down hell of premoistened misery. A handful, led by scalawag Dylan Johns (Lucas), make their way up to the bottom of the ship, which burbles atop the swells like some Bizarro World-Titanic. A handful of talented actors – Russell, Dreyfuss, Dillon – checked their egos at the door in hopes of … something, but this Poseidon is a wash, right down to the jarringly loud/soft/loud score by Klaus Badelt (Catwoman). So where to lay the blame? I'm going with screenwriter Mark Protosevich (The Cell), whose sense of characterization and backstory (extremely important in an ensemble film such as this) is almost completely absent, which means, when everything suddenly goes topsy-turvy and people begin dying in new and fascinating ways, you really don't see much of a reason to either care about or identify with them. It's all so much blood and brine signifying nothing, not even a good time. Now somebody do us all a favor and cut that albatross from around Petersen's neck already.