Reviewed By Collin Souter
Posted 05/12/06 15:45:10

"Thus concludes Wolfgang Peterson's Big Boats Underwater trilogy"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

I must say that when it comes to mindless Hollywood summertime entertainment, I have a slight weakness for disaster flicks, particularly those directed by someone who has already proved themselves a maestro of the genre. I know a lot of these movies are cheesy, predictable, contrived and that with each change of location comes a new plot hole, but throw in a likable cast, a solid action director and a promise that the diversion will last a mere 98 minutes (only 90 if you leave when the credits roll), I just might be in a good enough mood to be along for the ride. These movies donít always have to be a chore to sit through.

For me, Wolfgang Petersonís Poseidon was a breeze. I went in with my usual cynicism intact and walked out with it still intact, but couldnít deny that I enjoyed myself. Iíll grant you the movie has nothing new to offer. It comes to us as an utterly forgettable and disposable piece of commercial filmmaking, but I didnít look at my watch once. Believe it or not, thatís quite a compliment these days. Peterson packs this movie so tightly that even the title of the original movie on which itís based has been cut in half.

Here, we get to know the characters for a whopping 15 (maybe 20) minutes. We got the former fireman and Mayor of New York (Kurt Russell), his hot daughter and her hunky boyfriend; we got a gay architect (Richard Dreyfuss); you got yourself a former Navy seaman (Josh Lucas); a single mom, her little tyke and a girl who boarded the ship without a ticket; oh, and of course, a superfluous, smarmy bad guy (Matt Dillon). Did I miss anyone?

Oh, yes, the ship itself. Not familiar with The Poseidon Adventure from 1972? Well, itís pretty simple stuff, really. A bunch of people from all walks of life get on a cruise ship, a tidal wave comes along, knocks the dang thing over upside down and the above-mentioned main characters try to swim their way to safety before the behemoth sinks to the ocean floor. Your typical disaster flick formula, complete with shallow characters, special effects and lots and lots of water.

But Peterson excels at this sort of thing and heóalong with his handsome castómakes the silliness go down smoothly. Sure, we can watch this movie and snicker about how long these people can really hold their breath under water and we can all place bets on which character will sacrifice themselves first so that others may live. Exactly why did these few people entrust one particular job meant for a fireman to a frail architect? I found myself pondering all of that, but I also found myself really wanting them to get out of their sticky situations. As much as I tried to detach myself from what I knew was essentially a throwaway movie, I found myself, well, along for the ride.

Itís not exactly a tall order to improve upon The Poseidon Adventure, a movie that had its time and place, but has since gained more value as a piece of camp more than anything else. This movie cuts out the sermonizing and goofy melodrama that propelled the characters forward in the original. This movie is more about moving from one set piece to the next as soon as possible, so you donít have time to think about it. Isnít that one of the reasons why someone would do a remake? To actually improve on an old idea? Isnít the only reason you want to see this movie is to see pretty people try and survive a major, special effects-laden disaster? Okay, then. Me too. Mission: accomplished.

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