Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Today In Giant Capsized Ship Film Reviews

The Poseidon Adventure

There once was a time when Hallmark produced quality entertainment, like The Promise, starring James Garner and James Woods as a pair of dysfunctional brothers learning to cope under the specter of mental illness. Now they churn out crap like this: schlocky remakes featuring cheap special effects and a host of B-grade actors well past their prime.

You're no doubt familiar with the premise of the original, wherein a luxury liner capsizes and the surviving passengers must escape their watery tomb. That is about all this production has in common with the original, as most every other element, including drama and suspense, has been excised wholesale in favor of crappy melodrama and crappier special effects.

Instead of a massive tidal wave flipping the S.S. Poseidon on its topside, the ship has been done in by menace-du-jour: Middle-Eastern terrorists. Though, I never understood why the terrorists were working in collusion with Chechen separatists to sink a South African cruise ship. Then again, I never understood how blowing a hole in the side of the ship caused it to capsize. Sure, it was explained once or twice, but it never seemed clear. Just because one fills a sentence with scientific sounding mumbo jumbo doesn't necessarily mean it actually makes sense.

So, that's the plot, more or less, and none of it is a surprise. The only question is who will and who will not survive. At the center of the drama is a wholesome American family, made up of Steve Guttenburg, his workaholic wife, and their two children. The marriage is crumbling, due to his infidelities and her devotion to work over all other things. (Those things being her husband and children.) So, will they all Grow and Learn and find a way to love again? Or will the family succumb to the inevitable, and drown one by one? Okay, so how many made-for-TV movies have you seen?

Also along for the ride is a rugged no-nonsense Sea Marshal named Agent Rogo (Adam Baldwin AKA Jayne from Firefly). He's the maritime equivalent of an Air Marshal. I don't even know if there is such a thing as a Sea Marshal, and I certainly don't know why he was in South Africa. For that matter, I don't know why any of these people were in South Africa to catch a cruise ship. Were all the flights to Florida booked? Big question: will he stop the terrorists and save the day? Well, no, if he did that there'd be no movie. Will he survive or die heroically saving a supporting character? Maybe.

Then there's the sniveling First Mate. Not only is he a pill popper, but he's blown Agent Rogo's cover. And Shoshanna, the masseuse, she's sleeping with Guttenburg. Will they get their Morning After? Come on, I think we all know what happens to sluts and drug addicts in movies.

Rounding out the cast are Rutger Hauer as a Catholic priest (see also), the Shelly Winter's character from the original (turning in the only interesting moment in the entire film, somewhere in the third hour), an Australian TV producer and his wife, C. Thomas Howell, Peter Weller, and a handful of anonymous crew members. It's anyone's guess which of these will make it topside.

Now, it is worth noting that this film about a cruise ship features not one single frame with an actual real live boat in it. Virtually every shot of the liner is computer generated, and quite badly at that. The one shot that isn't a CGI effect is clearly just some extras blue screened in front of a photograph of a boat.

And certainly, it's understandable that the producers went the CGI route. Surely it's cheaper than filming on an actual boat. The downside is your film looks cheap, but maybe that's the feel they were going for. In a disaster movie about a boat capsizing, who really pays attention to the boat anyway?

But what I cannot comprehend is why anyone would cast Steve Guttenburg as the lead. Was Craig T. Nelson busy or something? Guttenburg cannot act, there are no two ways about it. Watching him have "heartfelt" moments with his family is painful. One would almost feel sorry for him if it weren't for the overwhelming desire to turn off the DVD every time he appeared.

Whenever he was on screen, I kept holding out hope his character would drown, or get eaten by sharks, or something. But you know how made-for-TV movies are.

Directed by John Putch • Unrated • 2005 • 173 minutes


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