As of today, there are two big-budget popcorn flicks competing for your cash at the box office. One of these movies stars the man everyone loves to hate, Tom Cruise. The other features Richard Dreyfuss as a gay millionaire architect who acts like a crybaby whiner when his ex-boyfriend doesn't call him for New Year's but rebounds quickly to hit on Freddy Rodriguez in the midst of a life-and-death situation. Unless you -- like Secretary of State Heller on '24' -- have been surviving in an underwater air pocket, the first movie is 'Mission: Impossible III.' The second is Wolfgang Petersen's $150-million sinking ship epic 'Poseidon,' about a luxury cruise ship that gets hit by a HUGE wave on New Year's Eve and capsizes, forcing a handful of daring passengers to struggle for survival.
Let me just say this now and get it out of the way: 'Poseidon' is not a good movie. It lacks strong character development; the dialogue is cheesy at best, banal at worst; and the plot holes are -- quite fittingly -- big enough to sink a luxury ocean liner. That said, 'Poseidon' is not completely awful. In fact, even as I was watching and thinking to myself, "Wow, this is a rhinoceros dump of a movie," somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice was saying, "Yes, but it's a very entertaining rhinoceros dump of a movie." And you know what? That little voice was right. Here's why ...
First, no one does a rogue wave like Wolfgang Petersen. See 2000's 'The Perfect Storm' for proof. I mean, that was just an innocent little sword-fishing boat, and you saw what he did to that. Here, it's a bigger boat, thus a bigger wave -- and the cinematic carnage is powerful indeed.
Second, as hard as the writers try to make us care about the characters and their back stories, we never really do. This may sound like a bad thing, but it really isn't. Because of it we don't sweat the small stuff -- like how convenient it is that Kurt Russell wasn't just New York's Mayor, which makes him a natural leader, but also a firefighter, which makes him invaluable in dealing with flash fires on the ship. And we don't linger too long over the believability of Josh Lucas' roguish cardsharp having been a naval officer on a submarine -- and thus knowing a bunch of nifty tricks for escaping a sinking vessel. Instead of pondering these things, we just sit back and enjoy the ride.
And finally, there are no surprises, no spiritual revelations, no subtle themes. This movie won't change the way you see the world. You get exactly what you expect going in: 98 minutes of big-spectacle, big-thrills escapism. In fact, one scene in particular sums up the movie best. In the midst of the group's final push toward safety, Jacinda Barrett's son wanders off inexplicably, only to be found moments later trapped in a cage halfway across the ship. When mom asks her usually well-behaved boy how he got there, his response is a simple, "I don't know." And to me that's perfect. The writer doesn't have the answer, and I'd be disappointed if he did. If you choose to see 'Poseidon,' the best thing you can do is sit back, turn off your brain, munch some popcorn and enjoy this very entertaining rhinoceros dump of a movie.
Tags: Poseidon, Josh Lucas, Tom Cruise