Here’s a few things I learned from “Poseidon.”
Emmy Rossum is paid to only look pretty and distressed, with some hammy emotions included to fill the gaping void.
When “Entourage” isn’t filming, Kevin Dillon needs to fight for better film roles, and not just big-budget ones.
At this point, Kurt Russell is whomever he wants to be, however he wants it.
Eric Shea, who played the kid in “The Poseidon Adventure”, needs to be brought forth at a future Academy Awards ceremony for an Honorary Oscar because Jimmy Bennett, who plays the so-tiny-he-threatens-to-shrink Conor James in this one, literally does not act. He says a few lines to his mother, Maggie (Jacinda Barrett), basically trying to reach out toward any audience in showing that he cares about her, but there’s no emotion. Oh sure there’s the usual kid tears, and frightened glances as the band of survivors ascends upward, but what child actor hasn’t learned that already?
And for an estimated $140 million-dollar budget, screenwriter Mark Protosevich’s fee should be tax-deductible. You can watch a behemoth of a cruise ship capsize, you can see explosions all over, gasoline pouring from a huge hole in the ship’s lobby floor, now ceiling, but you can’t hear anything emitted from these characters or watch any of their actions and actually know anything about them or care enough to know.
But most importantly, I’m calling for a campaign across Hollywood, across the nation to search for Richard Dreyfuss. The man that’s credited in “Poseidon” cannot possibly be Richard Dreyfuss. He is merely a life-like technologically sound audio-animatronic figure impervious to water and loaded with the standard homosexual stereotypes. This figure does not speak much throughout the movie, and his biggest moment is where he inexplicably explains to a group of associates at his table that his lover broke up with him, having found someone new and probably younger in London and that the $5,000 bottle of wine he just ordered will be good for hefty drinking. After that, it’s all down to a series of horrified reaction shots and strangely trying to pick up on Valentin (Freddy Rodriguez), who at first leads the group to where they start this grossly awful voyage to the top. If you know where Mr. Dreyfuss might be found, whether he is lunching with Elvis somewhere in Arizona or gambling with Jesus in Vegas, contact his agent and family. They should know.
Now the bigger things.
Because the oversized cruise ships of today didn’t exist in the times where Irwin Allen made big hooey out of his career (and at times it was terrific, engaging hooey), “The Poseidon Adventure” was intimate, and suspenseful as the characters climbed up stairwells, creeped next to gas fires in the kitchen, and shimmied up ladders. Of course back then there was Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman, Stella Stevens, Red Buttons, Jack Albertson, Shelley Winters, and even Pamela Sue Martin whose hot pants made it all very attractive. Besides that, the S.S. Poseidon was on its way to a new fate, as set forth in Paul Gallico’s novel. Allen knew that, used it, and showed us that it was a much older ship. Most importantly, he loved it. He loved his world of wonders, of thrills, of suspense. Even though Ronald Neame directed “The Poseidon Adventure”, Irwin Allen’s handiwork was easily noticeable. Turning a ship upside down? Spectacular! Upside down sets of all types, even to where barber chairs are an entertaining part of it? Excellent!
But I wonder. Did anyone actually care enough about “Poseidon” to try to inject it with any entertainment and genuine thrills at all? I don’t think so. The ship even mirrors the Titanic in sailing from England to New York and where Poseidon ends up capsized might as well be where Titanic hit the iceberg and sank. All that I could think about while watching and wondering what kind of quartz crystal is in a watch is how the media of this fictional world might have written up and broadcast this major event. Their very own Titanic. Modern-day cruise ship befallen by a more perilous fate, more dead than there were on the Titanic. A 20-story cruise ship would have likely given up more souls than her real-life counterpart.
Director Wolfgang Petersen’s method of making excitement is to put the action sequences into a soda can, shake it hard and let it spray out. There’s blips and waves of colors as water rushes towards where the survivors are. Flash fires see the end of much of the galley crew and other crewmembers. The captain (Andre Braugher) announces to everyone in the cavernous main dining room that they will be saved and to stay put. Ah yes, we always need one person to try to assure others that total disaster will not happen, before it actually does. Fortunately, Leslie Nielsen didn’t have to do that dirty work in the original as Captain Harrison was killed by the wave and the job was left to a scared-and-sure-of-himself purser.
Because of this enormous cruise ship, there’s naturally bodies, bodies everywhere. However, Petersen is too aroused toward this. A body here, twenty bodies there, a body or two face down in the water, other bodies floating by. Even Allen, when he had to show a body, did it at the right moment when his characters did not expect it. Even in 98 minutes, Protosevich takes up even more time with the disaster-film format when Russell’s former fireman/New York mayor tells the professional gambler (Josh Lucas) that he has to find his daughter, who was in the ship’s nightclub when the wave came. There’s just enough time for anything in this movie, but did she really have to be found by him?
And at the rate Protosevich is going in his screenwriting career, he won’t have to be concerned about any serviceable dialogue. His first screenplay was “The Cell” and it was the visuals that overtook everything else, now it’s this one, and “I Am Legend” is now back up to speed. Visuals, visuals, visuals. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is when that’s all there is, like it is here, and Russell’s bad makeup job doesn’t count.
“Poseidon” is certainly not a guilty pleasure, and not an intense action film to be giddy about while watching it. If you’re not there because of the actors in it (and Dillon’s role as Lucky Larry shows how lucky he is on “Entourage”), then be prepared to sit through moment after moment of rising waters, scared looks, and a moment or two of calm before the next danger which is never late. Who lives, who dies, who cares? I didn’t. And a quartz crystal in a watch varies by shape.