That Sinking Feeling

Summer's just begun but — between the wishy-washy prelude of M:I3 and now this popcorn atrocity — it already feels like it's been here forever.

A disaster movie that only a disaster-movie-junkie could love, Poseidon is a thrill machine in the worst sense of the phrase — its characters are merely fodder for the machine, and it churns out its would-be thrills with such grinding, formulaic precision that the film becomes anything but exciting. After a perfunctory introduction of its characters (rugged, attractive or plucky stock types, all), the movie's titular ship is knocked for a loop by a tsunami-sized rogue wave. There's not even much dialogue — a good thing really, considering the lameness of what comes out of people's mouths here — so what we get is basically 90 minutes of forgettable characters wandering from one chamber to the next, leaping across chasms, climbing up shafts and dealing with copious amounts of fire and water as they attempt to stay alive. The only real excitement becomes guessing who's going to die next, but even that isn't much of a surprise.

Despite its monumental budget and the technical proficiency of its special effects, Poseidon feels anything but spectacular. Wolfgang Peterson seems to be going through the motions here, cutting to the chase simply because he's too disinterested to do anything else, and his film has more in common with a straight-to-cable project than with the handiwork of a director who has made some very good movies (Das Boot) and some very successful ones (The Perfect Storm). The nominal star here is Josh Lucas, by the way, who at times looks like he's trying to channel Kevin Costner, but comes off more like Jon Stewart spoofing an action hero de jour. Stars Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett and Emmy Rossum.

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