- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

The sense of deja vu permeating “Poseidon” has nothing to do with fact that the movie revamps the camp 1972 “The Poseidon Adventure.”

We’ve simply been here before, and by “here” we mean “Titanic’s” topsy-turvy waves, generic hero types and those noble sacrifices that give action films their aw-shucks epiphanies.

Yet the film’s captain, adventure director Wolfgang Petersen, knows how to steer megabudget vessels.

“Poseidon” moves like a speedboat, crashing from one perilous escape to another with barely time for survivor chitchat. And that’s a good thing, since the drippy dialogue leaves us rooting for the ocean.

“Poseidon” has little time for context — the wave that knocks the ship silly is dubbed a “rogue” wave, and that’s the only meteorological clue we get.

We do get the overprotective dad (Kurt Russell), who not only is a former fireman (convenient skills alert) but also ex-mayor of New York. That’s a lot to stuff into a two-dimensional construct, but Mr. Russell wears it well.

Papa can’t stop worrying about his daughter’s new beau, but fellow passenger Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) cares more about a hottie single mom (Jacinda Barrett) he spotted near the casino. The news is worse for architect Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss, who accurately describes his character as a cross between Shelley Winters and Red Buttons from the first film). His partner just deserted him, and he’s considering a suicidal leap into the ocean.

The approaching monster wave changes his mind.

Within minutes of the wave’s initial impact, the ship is tipping over in a disaster sequence every bit as good as we’d expect from Mr. Petersen.

While the bulk of the surviving passengers wait in the ship’s inverted ballroom, Dylan leads a small group upward. Their instincts prove sound, but their journey will test the limits of their lung capacity as well as the actors’ ability to sustain our affections.

“Poseidon” squanders not only Andre Braugher as the ship’s captain but “Entourage’s” Kevin Dillon. The latter’s rapscallion anti-hero must have wandered here from an ‘80s teen comedy.

As for Mr. Lucas, well, we’re still waiting for him to star in a feature worthy of his screen appeal.

It’s fascinating to watch the boat slowly deconstruct, but one’s sense of awe starts to wear off after a while. Sadly, it’s impossible not to play the “who dies next” game as the water pours into the boat’s corridors.

“Poseidon” shrink-wraps an effective disaster story in under 100 minutes, but forgets the cardinal rule of disaster films — it’s the characters, stupid.

**1/2

TITLE: “Poseidon”

RATING: PG-13 (Disturbing images, mild sensuality and violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Written by Mark Protosevich based on the novel by Paul Gallico.

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

WEB SITE: www2.warnerbros

.com/poseidon/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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