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Relatively low on the cheese meter and high on realistic visual effects, Poseidon is just plain good old fashioned disaster flick fun, perfect for a summer evening at the movies.


After a very brief meet and greet, in which we are introduced to our main characters on New Year"s Eve--a card shark (Josh Lucas); an ex-firefighter (Kurt Russell); his daughter (Emmy Rossum) and her fiancé (Mike Vogel); a single mother (Jacinda Barrett) and her young son (Jimmy Bennett); a stowaway (Mia Maestro); and an entrepreneur (Richard Dreyfuss)--the rogue waves flips the ship over and we are on our way. As the core group tries to make it up through the bowels of the ship to safety, half the fun is figuring out who is going to die. They can"t kill the kid, right? But maybe the mother? Or how about the grizzled dad or the fiancé? You just don"t know.


Although it"s difficult to achieve any real level of acting (besides acting terrified and being able to hold your breath), Poseidon still collects a fine ensemble of would-be survivors. You can throw Russell in just about any genre and he manages to pick up the pace. Same goes for everyman Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), who follows in Russell"s footsteps but with a slightly harder edge. Barrett does a convincing job as a mother trying to keep tabs on her wandering son, while the kid isn"t as annoying as, say, the kid in the original Poseidon Adventure. And Dreyfuss, showing a little wear and tear in his older age, at least doesn"t have to battle any sharks this time around. Andre Braugher also makes a memorable appearance as the ship"s captain, who unwisely tells everyone in the ballroom to stay put and wait for help. Big mistake.


See? It"s entirely possible to keep a film steeped in visual effects under two hours. Clocking in at 98 minutes, Poseidon is just non-stop, teeth-clenching action from beginning to end. Director Wolfgang Petersen, known for his expertise filming in and or around water (Das Boot, The Perfect Storm), takes from the cheesy 1972 predecessor and updates it with even more daring stunts, more fire--and of course, lots and lots of water. Sure, much of it is highly implausible, but Petersen likes to rely more on elaborate sets rather than just utilizing CGI, giving Poseidon a more realistic feel. But in doing so, Petersen also put his cast through the ringer. There are times it looks like they really are in fear for their lives. Of course, there are also a few trite moments as well, reminiscent of the original ("Oh God, please don"t take this woman! Not this woman!") But mostly these new intrepid survivors bravely face one dangerous obstacle after another. I"m just always amazed how long these people can hold their breath underwater in these movies. I"d NEVER survive.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.