May 30, 2006

We were getting a little stir crazy by Monday, so we decided to go see a movie. My partner flatly refuses to see X-Men: The Last Stand, I’ve done my damnedest to spare myself The Da Vinci Code, we figured Over the Hedge would be mobbed with jabbering children, and next to no inducement could get either of us to see Tom Cruise in anything, so that pretty much left Poseidon.

It’s hardly The Poseidon Adventure, so blissfully stupid that it spawned an entire genre of “star”-studded disaster movies, but there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours in a movie theatre. Fondness for the original is actually a bonus in this instance, because I had fun seeing which character types got updated and integrated into the new survivors.

Richard Dreyfuss gets the Red Buttons lonely-hearts gig, though he’s old and gay, so he has no Carol Lynley to offer the prospect of romance if he survives. Mia Maestro partially fulfills Lynley duty, dragged quivering from peril to peril in one of the more credible displays of post-disaster behavior the movie offers. She also has a bit of Shelly Winters to her, what with a promise to a child to uphold as incentive to swim her way to freedom. Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas play mix-and-match with some of the qualities of Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine, though both are generically aesthetically superior to their predecessors. (Russell, oddly enough, seems to base his performance more on the dignity-amidst-the-rubble theatrics of Charlton Heston, one of the few members of the Irwin Allen Players not to appear in The Poseidon Adventure. Though I’m grateful no one decided to use Hackman’s performance as a model for their work in Poseidon.)

Another fun diversion the movie offers is noting which more expensive actors the casting director would have liked. Can’t afford Anne Hathaway? Call Emmy Rossum. Is Matthew McConaughey out of your price range? Lucas isn’t! John Leguizamo locked into a one-man show during filming? Freddie Rodruigez is free! In such straits that none of the go-to plucky single moms are available? May I introduce you to Jacinda Barrett, who will remind you of several of them simultaneously? Need that trademark Dillon family magic for your obnoxious douche? Kevin will step in if Matt declines.

Speaking of the obnoxious douche, I was relieved to see that the filmmakers chose to distill all that into the one character, Dillon’s “Lucky Larry.” (Har! Disaster irony!) Usually there are two or three deeply obnoxious bits of cannon fodder, so this almost indicates restraint. Dillon tries his best to wear out his welcome, hamming it up to a level that would make Earthquake’s Richard Chamberlain blush, but circumstances happily intervene.

And Wolfgang Petersen does a perfectly serviceable job of keeping things moving. The ship flip is genuinely chaotic, and there was one scene so claustrophobic that I almost had to avert my eyes. I kind of wish he’d shown more of a sense of humor, though. The early scenes begged to have odds of survival flash across the screen when each character is introduced, though I guess such numbers are fairly intuitive at this point. If the character is white, straight, and won’t sully the gene pool too much if they procreate, you can be fairly sure they’ll make it to the closing credits. (Sorry, just about everyone else!)

But really, if it’s broiling out, and you’re sick of being cooped up at home, and you can catch it during a matinee, go see Poseidon! You won’t regret it as much as some of the alternatives.