U.S. Release Date: May 12, 2006
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Writer: Mark Protosevich
Producer: Akiva Goldsman, Jon Jashni (executive)
Composer: Klaus Badelt
Cast: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Jacinda Barrett, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, Mia Maestro, Andre Braugher, Kevin Dillon, Freddy Rodriguez, Stacy Ferguson, Mike Vogel
Running Time: 1 hour and 39 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (intense prolonged sequences of disaster and peril)

Ship Disaster Lacks Character and Conflict
by Scott Holleran

Poseidon quickly sinks, with relatively stale characters and effects and without the only thing that made the original 1972 disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure worth passing the time: a sense of moral conflict.

Logistically, how passengers interact with a capsized ship's mechanics is remotely interesting and the story tracks closely to Irwin Allen's picture. But Poseidon, steering clear of anything like Gene Hackman's God-doubting minister, presents its passengers in fits and starts. It never stabilizes.

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the opening shot closes in on a streamlined, hi-tech cruiser in classic Cunard red and black, evoking the Queen Mary, cutting through the vast ocean. The voyage to the bottom of the sea is already in progress. Picking up on passenger Josh Lucas jogging on deck is a signal that it centers on one major character.

But the characters are slight, and per-passenger introductions are awfully thin. We meet oily Lucas, a gambler badly in need of a razor blade, and while it's clear the cad will turn hero—he does so in a bold dive—he comes off too shady to lead an expedition.

It doesn't help that Kurt Russell as an ex-mayor, ex-fireman and father—to wide-eyed Emmy Rossum—outclasses Lucas in every situation, making a person out of a piece of cardboard in the only character worth rooting for. Mr. Russell, looking fit and civilized as always, almost single-handedly elevates the movie.

But not quite. After a rogue wave slams into the ocean liner on New Year's Eve— where it's been, where it is located, and where it's going are mysteries—the ship is swept upside down and the passengers' boring ascent, led by Lucas, begins.

The action is predictably fiery, wet and loud, with fireballs raging and bodies floating everywhere. The oncoming wave is a realistically ominous wall of water. The people on the boat in its way are another story. A single mother and her son are straight out of The Love Boat, which had better writers, and the rest of them—a Spanish-speaking stowaway, a gay architect, young lovers, a waiter and a male chauvinist—are lifeless long before the wave crashes.

None are memorable, even if compared to the preachy captain played by Andre Braugher, looking lost, and his hoochie momma girlfriend, who looks like Charo and performs like she's on a 3-day Carnival Fun Cruise instead of a seafaring Four Seasons.

Passengers crawl, swim and bond, with spotty success. Dodging danger and relying on Lucas as the leader—fireman Russell and architect Richard Dreyfuss are rarely if ever consulted for their knowledge—they die one by one with no particular point, which echoes the movie's basic idea that life is a crapshoot.

Besides Kurt Russell, Rossum takes her best aim as his young daughter, secretly engaged to her boyfriend, who looks like the kid from the Dell Computers commercial. That, unfortunately, is as deep as it goes, in what could have been a guiltless summer survival story that instead swirls slowly down the drain.

The Core
A 21st Century Journey to the Center of the Earth
Apollo 13
Problematic 'Apollo 13' Compelling as Docudrama
The Poseidon Adventure
Irwin Allen's Upside of Disaster
The Day After Tomorrow
The Guardian
Coast Guard Drama Gets the Rescue Ethos Right
Ladder 49