Admittedly, a summer B-picture like Poseidon isn’t going to turn the world upside down in any case. And it’s got nothing on the original Poseidon Adventure of 1972 (which itself isn’t all that great a film): Josh Lucas is almost always a likable presence, but he’s no Gene Hackman…nor, for that matter, is Kurt Russell Ernest Borgnine or Richard Dreyfuss Red Buttons (or is he Shelley Winters?) — but that may speak in this version’s favor. Still, by this point director Wolfgang Petersen is a master of both the underwater nightmare (Das Boot, The Perfect Storm) and the tube movie (Boot, Air Force One), and as a big, dumb disaster flick, Poseidon is competent enough. I can’t really recommend that you rush out and see it by any means, but it may be worth watching the back half on TNT some day.
So, you probably know the set-up. It’s New Year’s Eve somewhere in the middle of the ocean, and, aboard a massive behemoth of a cruise ship that makes the Titanic look like the S.S. Venture, passengers party the night away to the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie, oblivious to the ginormous “rogue wave” bearing down on them. Soon, the wave hits, the ship capsizes, and our gaggle of disheveled celebrities — a professional gambler (Lucas), a recently-dumped gay architect (Dreyfuss), a former fireman and mayor of New York(!) (Russell), his daughter (Emmy Rossum), etc. etc. — band together to get to the bottom of things (which, of course, is now the top.) Along the way, they must brave fearsome flash fires, watery death traps, and clunky exposition-riddled dialogue in order to get out alive, if they can. (I won’t say who makes it and who doesn’t, other than to say that [Spoilers] actors from the HBO stable don’t seem to fare too well on this vessel.)
So, is the movie any good? Well, yeah, it’s ok, in a turn-your-brain-off kinda way. True, the dialogue and characterizations are pretty much terrible — even the wisps of backstory and perfunctory conflicts given these folks turn out to be barely credible. But the movie still works, since you just end up rooting for the long-suffering actors instead, many of whom seem like they must be hating the water tank by now. (Speaking of which, Kurt Russell, no stranger to B-flicks, seems particularly at home here.) And, to its credit, there are a few legitimately clever and suspenseful setpieces herein, the best of which makes a solid, if not incontrovertible, case for never getting trapped in a water-logged air shaft behind a claustrophobe and Richard Dreyfuss. And, like the similar crests in Petersen’s Perfect Storm, the Big Wave itself has a wrath-of-God grandeur to it, particularly in its first appearance, as it looms in the distance like inexorable Fate. In short, Poseidon is nowhere near to being a great film, but it does make for a mildly diverting carnage-filled cruise.