As bizarre as it sounds, there are not many people today who remember the 1972 movie The Poseidon Adventure.  Well, here's a new version of Paul Gallico's book for them, courtesy of director Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, The Perfect Storm) and adapter Mark Protosevich (The Cell).  It's a typical summer blockbuster - vapid and bombastic, but Poseidon is also surprisingly fun.  This is all because of Petersen, who knows how to make an action movie.  He keeps things moving so quickly that anybody watching has no time to realize how thin the characters are, or how silly the premise can get.

And the premise?  A ship turns upside down and a group of survivors tries to make their way to the top (actually the bottom) to find a way out before it sinks.  It's a simple as that.  And yet the film is still nearly one-hundred minutes.  Petersen begins things extremely quickly, after a cursory introduction to the main players.  A massive wave hits the ship shortly after midnight, when everybody was ringing in the New Year.  Many guest die instantly, and most of the survivors are now in the ceiling of the large ballroom.  Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas, Glory Road, An Unfinished Life) wants to get out.

Along for the ride are Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell, Dreamer:  Inspired by a True Story, Sky High), ex-Mayor of New York, ex-firefighter, and concerned dad looking for his daughter, Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett, Bridget Jones:  Edge of Reason, Ladder 49) and her son Conor (Jimmy Bennett, Firewall, The Amityville Horror), gay architect Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss, Silver City, Who Is Cletis Tout?).  Yes, a gay architect.  The characterizations are that slim.  Worse is that it's hard to see why some people would want to go with Johns.  Nelson was about to commit suicide, and now he wants to survive.  The captain (Andre Braugher, Duets, Frequency) says that the ballroom is the safest.  Yet James decides to go with Johns, who tried flirting with her a short time ago.  Other than that, she knew nothing about him.

The strength in Poseidon lies in its intensity.  Petersen is a good action movie director, and Poseidon is an action movie with little else.  The sets are massive, and the rushing water is menacing.  There are plenty of scenes that take place with the cast fully underwater, so it gives the sense of real peril.  Meanwhile, there's plenty of arguing, especially amongst Johns and Ramsey, who may or may not have had some history together.  It really doesn't matter in the end.  It's a race to the hull, with the water continually rising.  Petersen knows exactly what his audience wants, and knows how to make a film suited to their needs.  They want danger, explosions, and rushing water.  There is no brainpower necessary to watch Poseidon, it's just a fun ride.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of disaster and peril.

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