Monday, May 15, 2006

There's Got to Be a Morning After

I saw “Poseidon.” First, I’m going to deal with the question that I know you’re asking. Then I’m going to take a slight detour. Then I’ll get back to the movie.

Keep that in mind.

First off: Yes, Fergie dies. No, you don’t see it, really. No, it isn’t particularly violent. Yes, she sings. No, you haven’t heard the songs before. Yes, she does a pretty good job. No, she doesn’t look particularly bad at any point.

And now, a quick detour:

Hey — do you remember that show “The Rerun Show?” The one where they took scripts of old sitcom episodes, cut out the filler and jazzed them up with improv and funny accents? It was on NBC a while, I think. And then it was on VH1 or something.

Okay, back to “Poseidon.” I bring up “The Rerun Show” because it and this remake of the “The Poseidon Adventure” work on essentially the same principle. Take a core story that people are familiar with, remove the boring parts, then jazz up the whole thing with stuff that you couldn’t do when the original came out. It’s a good idea, really. Productivity without creativity. And if you do it right, profit should follow.

But that’s the question, I suppose: Have they remade this movie well enough to warrant your money and attention?

This “Poseidon” movie hasn’t been doing especially well at the box office this past weekend, and I’m a little sad for it. Although “Poseidon” is far from a great movie, it’s not a bad one. It does a lot of things right, and I think it’s the ideal kind of movie to go see on some Saturday afternoon when you don’t have anything better to do.

Here’s my nutshell summary of the film: You meet the ten main characters. They have names. Or maybe they don’t. Anyway, you’ll recognize them. You don’t need to worry about anybody else, really, because the ship flips over about twenty minutes into the film and just about everybody is fish niblets, expect for Andre Braugher and Fergie from Black Eyed Peas, but you know they’re totally dead from the get-go and they die eventually anyway, because he’s black and she’s not really an actress and situations like this generally favor experienced actors and white people. Then people escape the ship. Some die en route.

The audience learns so little about the characters that I feel it actually benefits the film. This isn’t “Titanic,” and it isn’t framed in some epic story about the human spirit. It’s about a boat. The people just happen to be on it. Wolfgang Peterson and whoever took half an hour to write this film don’t bother with the little details of human interaction just because that’s not what people going to see this movie want. They want a great disaster — and man, the CGI ship looks good when it turns over — and they want to gawk and people getting flung all over this formerly nice vessel before they meet their watery graves.

Simple as that, this movie succeeds.

A lot of reviews of this film have noted that it has the air of a TV movie because the actors in it are either formerly big-name stars or faces more recognizable from TV shows. I guess this is true. The film seems to have an appreciably high budget to me, but I’ll give these reviewers that the cast does seem scoured from various TV shows: Jacinda Barret from “The Real World,” Mike Vogel from “Grounded for Life,” Mia Maestro from “Alias,” Kevin Dillon from “Entourage,” Freddy Rodriguez from “Six Feet Under,” and Braugher from “Homicide.” But it’s fine. Turns out any of these folks trained for the TV screen look just as good drippy and screaming on a large screen.

Do any of these people have any characterization? Well, Jacinda plays a mom. You know this because she’s always standing next to this kid and being all worried and stuff. Richard Dreyfuss is in the movie too. He’s gay. You know this because he leaves a message for his boyfriend and he wears this ugly fucking earring that only a gay man in a mid-life crisis would wear. Um. Mia Maestro is a Latina, I think. And she’s Catholic. Probably. That’s about it. These aren’t broadly drawn folks like Belle Rosen and Mike Rogo and Nonnie — Nonnie! — but that’s probably because they’ve already made that movie.

It’s short. It looks good. And it’s as light as a disaster movie can be. And it’s entirely representative of the kind of movies people watch as summer draws near.

My only real complain is that I think the movie would have been improved twenty times over if they had had a table at the New Year’s Eve banquet with all the people from the first movie — Belle and Rogo et al. And you get introduced to them along with all of the real characters from this movie. And then when the ship flips — wham! — they all get crushed by a chandelier. Or something.

Well, I think that would have been good.

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