'The Poseidon Adventure'

Review

 

 

 

 

November 18, 2005


TV Weekend | 'The Poseidon Adventure'


Red Update Alert: Poseidon Goes Belly Up Again


By ALESSANDRA STANLEY


Re-creations of 70's schlock, from "Starsky & Hutch" to "The Dukes of Hazzard," all seem to obey the second law of movie dynamics: remakes drift to a state of inert uniformity known as entropy.
NBC's three-hour "Poseidon Adventure," to be shown Sunday night, may be the exception that proves the rule. It is not quite as deliciously awful as the original 1972 disaster movie, but it comes pretty close. Pauline Kael once described "The Poseidon Adventure" as a "waterlogged 'Grand Hotel.' " The TV version is closer to a massacre on "The Love Boat."
Not a single cruise director is spared.
The writers wisely chose to update the plot, which was based on a novel by Paul Gallico. Instead of a freak weather disaster, Islamic terrorists disguised as kitchen workers take over the luxury cruise ship and blow it up with explosives hidden inside beer kegs. (These terrorists are much better prepared than the pirates who tried to board a cruise ship off the coast of Somalia earlier this month with a grenade launcher.)
Modern audiences have short attention spans and need a movie to kick off with a little violence. The terrorist twist allows the film to open with a scene of a Special Forces team raiding an enemy safe house in Jordan and opening fire on the conspirators - always a bracing way to start. The terrorists are slaughtered ("all targets are reduced," one agent says to another), but not before their leader manages to destroy evidence of the secret plot to blow up the S.S. Poseidon.
The cast of characters has been updated as well, though, oddly, not to reflect multiculturalism. There are no black or Hispanic heroes. Only feminism gets a tip of the cap: one of the smarter, tougher survivors is Rachel (Alexa Hamilton), a successful entrepreneur who booked the cruise to improve relations with her whiny husband, Richard (goes without saying: Steve Guttenberg). But she also chooses to share the cabin suite with their two children, putting a damper on candle-lit reconciliation. Richard, a failed novelist, seeks adulterous consolation in the arms of the ship masseuse, Shoshanna (Nathalie Boltt).
Ernest Borgnine played Detective Lt. Mike Rogo in the original. In the post-Sept. 11 version, Rogo (Adam Baldwin) is a gruff, buff officer in the Department of Homeland Security who is assigned to the Poseidon as an undercover sea marshal. Rogo is a man of few words, but lots of disaster movie aphorisms ("Everything is safe, until it's not").
The script even takes account of grade inflation at the Vatican: the take-charge Roman Catholic priest Gene Hackman played in the original is now a monsignor, Bishop Schmit, played by Rutger Hauer ("Blade Runner"). Secular Hollywood, however, gets equal time: Bryan Brown ("The Thorn Birds") plays a Hollywood schlockmeister, Jeffrey, who goes on the cruise with his sexy, young French beloved, Aimee (Tinarie Van Wyk).
Perhaps the most striking addition is the remake's post-Iraq war humility. When the United States Navy is finally alerted to the hijacking (the terrorists destroy the ship's communications system, but Rachel manages to tack an S.O.S. message to her e-mail Christmas list), the admiral in charge finds he cannot get an American satellite in position to locate the missing vessel. The British secret service comes to the rescue, led by a crisp senior agent, Suzanne Harrison, played by Alex Kingston ("ER").
Since John le Carré, British spy thrillers have brooded over the inequities of the "special relationship," gleefully portraying C.I.A. agents as blustering bullies who undermine British spy craft, notably in the BBC series "MI-5." In its own small way, "The Poseidon Adventure" is a way of saying we're sorry.
Sadly, the famous theme song, "The Morning After" sung by Maureen McGovern, which won "The Poseidon Adventure" its only major Oscar, was left out. But the Shelley Winters role remains intact. The British actress Sylvia Syms plays the elderly passenger, Belle Rosen, and while this time she is a widow (the tiresome kind who always quotes her late husband, Manny), she has just enough avoirdupois to give viewers chilling expectations for Mrs. Rosen's underwater swimming scene. It would be churlish to ruin the suspense, but as soon as the ship flips, the producers tantalize viewers with ominous shots of Mrs. Rosen's rear end as she climbs fire ladders in a blue dress with a long slit up the back.
The original movie was one of the first all-star disaster movies, a precursor to "The Towering Inferno," starring Paul Newman, but that genre has faded. For one thing, in an era when Robert De Niro and Kate Winslet do ads for American Express, few movie stars have the same cachet. The cast of NBC's disaster movie is not particularly high powered, but it doesn't really matter.
Nor are the special effects particularly special - it's hard to detect any major technological advances in the depiction of rushing waters and crashing furniture. Nevertheless, the high point, when the ship first capsizes and New Year's Eve revellers in the grand ballroom fall from the upside-down floor to the ceiling, is quite satisfying - especially when one of them crashes through the ceiling's stained glass.
Three hours is a lot for a cruise-ship hijacking, but "The Poseidon Adventure" manages to keep a straight face throughout even in its silliest moments. And that is a fitting tribute to the original.
The Poseidon Adventure
NBC, Sunday night at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time.
Robert Halmi Jr. and Larry Levinson, executive producers; John Putch, director; Bryce Zabel wrote the teleplay based on the novel by Paul Gallico. A Hallmark Entertainment presentation of a Silverstar Limited Production in association with Larry Levinson Productions.
WITH: Steve Guttenberg (Richard), Bryan Brown (Jeffrey Eric Anderson), Rutger Hauer (Bishop Schmidt), Peter Weller (Capt. Paul Gallico), C. Thomas Howell (Dr. Ballard), Adam Baldwin (Mike Rogo), Alex Kingston (Suzanne Harrison), Alexa Hamilton (Rachel), Sylvia Syms (Belle Rosen), Nathalie Boltt (Shoshanna) and Tinarie Van Wyk (Aimee Anderson).
 

 

By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff | November 19, 2005

 

Sometimes, a critic just wants to write, ''Don't watch it." Or, ''NBC, you should be ashamed of yourself." And leave it at that.

But then how would he vent the frustration of having spent some three hours submitting to an embarrassing remake of the iconic 1972 disaster movie ''The Poseidon Adventure"? So thank you for letting me heal in public, and in return I promise not to use the phrases ''all wet" and ''titanic flop" in reference to this Robert Halmi Jr.-produced sweeps event, which sucks up air tomorrow night at 8 on Channel 7.

I will, however, use the words ''interminable" and ''ridiculous," because the movie is like a slow amble through a faulty water park. The effects? Not so special. The survivors climb endlessly through a visually illogical soundstage, getting doused and then dodging fires that are as threatening as a gas fireplace on a daytime soap. There's not a hint of drama to be had when the big boat flips and thousands die -- or at least we assume thousands die, since there are only a handful of bodies strewn about. If this represents state-of-the-art film technology, it's state of the art circa 1960.

Meanwhile, the movie keeps cutting away to a two-bit rescue effort led by Alex Kingston as an intelligence agent. Kingston mans a high-tech room that looks like a dreary basement entertainment center. It's from that oddly sequestered room that she phones in her performance.

As they move toward safety, the survivors' relationships are as deep as they would be on an episode of ''Love Boat," with Steve Guttenberg still trying to seem adult-like as an unhappy husband who hooks up with the boat's massage therapist. In the Shelley Winters role, Sylvia Syms is pure treacle. She's now a widow who chants ''Manny this" and ''Manny that" about her late husband like a pull-string doll. And as a mysterious bishop, Rutger Hauer is all collar. The characters make the adventure-reality types on shows such as ''Survivor" appear three-dimensional in comparison.

In producer Irwin Allen's pioneering original, a wave flipped the Poseidon. But the only waves here are the waves of nausea you'll feel at having wasted so much valuable time. The remake gives us bumbling terrorists blowing a hole in the hull, causing the ocean liner to turn upside down and slowly sink. (Ironically, the writers probably thought natural disasters weren't appropriate for an update.) They're being followed by a Homeland Security agent played by the unsmiling Adam Baldwin -- no relation to the brothers -- who comes off like a goatee-era Ben Affleck with shpilkes.

But then you can't blame him for being so grumpy. He's read the script.






The Poseidon Adventure
Sunday night at 8, NBC.


In an age of bitchy little ephemera like "The Apprentice," we sometimes forget the pleasure of a big old-fashioned rootin' tootin' adventure disaster melodrama.

"Poseidon Adventure," welcome home.

Unlike the camera crew on "The Apprentice," fiction writers can give us as many stirring life-or-death crises as they can dream up, and writer Bryce Zabel and director John Putch have clearly made it a priority to minimize downtime between moments of extreme peril.

In this, they are faithful to the spirit of the original 1972 cruise-ship-set disaster film "Poseidon Adventure."

In fact, they're faithful to the spirit of disaster movies back to "The Perils of Pauline," though one imagines many viewers will reference the more recent likes of "Titanic."

This new "Poseidon" - airing Sunday at 8 on NBC - also echoes the original in having a large cast of recognizable stars, though this time it's the contemporary likes of Rutger Hauer, Bryan Brown, C. Thomas Howell and Alex Kingston rather than Shelley Winters and Gene Hackman.

Naturally, the plot has been updated for the 21st century. This time the Poseidon's problem, specifically a gaping hole in the bow that causes it to overturn, has been caused by swarthy Middle Eastern terrorists.

Now there's a novel twist.

The terrorists only set the stage, however, because the heart of "The Poseidon Adventure," then and now, lies in the inspiring courage of ordinary people at moments when life itself is on the line.

There's an extent to which being made for television hinders this "Adventure," because massive explosions and great oceans of fire get better as the screen gets bigger. But with some TV sets now almost as large as multiplex movie screens, that's less of a problem than it would have been in the 20th century.

The plot, not surprisingly, is functional, rather than intricate. The good guys and bad guys are divided into two camps, with no gray between, and the writers don't even bother to spread the Poseidon passengers among ethnic demographics. Pretty much everyone is rich and white.

The size of the cast gives individual performers little time to stand out, so the talents of a Kingston are barely tapped. Steve Guttenberg has a shaky outing as a tormented husband and father, but most of the other performances are serviceable.

Maybe the most notable thing about the casting is that the hero, Adam Baldwin as a homeland security agent, looks remarkably like Mike, Teri Hatcher's boyfriend on "Desperate Housewives" over on ABC.

In the end, "The Poseidon Adventure" has the same appeal on TV as it had in theaters. It's a campfire yarn, a B-movie without pretensions, and it delivers what it promises.

Originally published on November 16, 2005



 



November 20, 2005

By Mike Duffy


"Sea cruise, oo-ee-baby" is not the happy tune you'd be singing as a passenger on the S.S. Poseidon.

A doomed juggernaut slicing through the ocean toward a very unfortunate encounter with a tidal wave in "The Poseidon Adventure," it was the ship that launched a thousand disaster movie cliches back in 1972.

The film also famously allowed Shelley Winters to chew more waterlogged scenery than a giant Hollywood squid in a famously over-the-top performance of campy splendor.

Now NBC -- in seafaring November sweeps production partnership with spectacle specialist Robert Halmi Jr. ("Dinotopia," "Arabian Nights") -- has decided to float the disaster movie boat again in a three-hour TV-movie remake that sails into view at 8 p.m. Sunday.

The "Love Boat"-worthy cast is headed by Steve Guttenberg, C. Thomas Howell, Rutger Hauer, Bryan Brown, Adam Baldwin, Peter Weller, former "ER" sawbones Alex Kingston and veteran British actress Sylvia Syms as a more restrained and gentler variation of the bellowing matron played by Winters.

In an attempt to put its own contemporary, post-9/11 twist on the disastrous voyage of the humongous luxury liner, this new, unimproved "Poseidon Adventure" is bedeviled by an evil terrorist plot.

Instead of a tidal wave, it's hidden bombs onboard that go kaboom in the night and capsize the massive Poseidon. The liner is left floating upside down as a small group of survivors desperately struggle to escape before the ship goes Titanic and sinks.

But though it gets off to a fairly brisk start, building to an early jolt of digital special effects razzle-dazzle when the cruise liner rolls over, "The Poseidon Adventure" soon flounders in a sea of cardboard characters and sluggish storytelling.

From Guttenberg's philandering family man to Baldwin's undercover Homeland Security hard guy, this is a ship of foolish prime-time people.

It could have been a lot more fun if Halmi had purchased the rights to the original Shelley Winters performance and digitally inserted her into the film. That might have given the whole thing a goofy kick of sass.

But the bigger problem is one of visual scale. Disaster movies weren't built for the smallish, unfriendly confines of the typical TV screen. They work best in a movie theater.

So hold on, disaster movie mavens. "The Poseidon Adventure" will be born yet again in 2006 when filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen ("The Perfect Storm," "Das Boot") goes for the summer blockbuster gold with his own lavish, mega-budget remake for the big screen.

Until then, NBC's leaky entertainment vessel will have to do. Bon voyage, brain cells.

 

 


November 18, 2005

BY DOUG ELFMAN TELEVISION CRITIC



"The Poseidon Adventure," NBC's big Sunday movie, is a heartwarming tale of how love conquers all in the face of ... nah, I'm just kiddin'. It's terrible, terrible, terrible. It's even worse than it sounds.

A terrorist blows up a beer keg full of explosives on a cruise ship, and the ship goes kerplunk and turns upside-down. Brave passengers scramble to escape and learn to love again for three cliche-crammed hours (7 p.m. Sunday, WMAQ-Channel 5).

Here's a typically awful scene. Before this good ship lollipoop goes boom, Richard (Steve Guttenberg) is receiving a naked-under-the-towel massage from a ship masseuse who is sassily named Shoshanna (Nathalie Boltt). He tells her he's having troubles with his wife, who owns a popular boutique.

"I love that place," Shoshanna says of the boutique. "You should tell her to stock more styles for busty women!"




'THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE'
Zero stars
7 to 10 p.m. Sunday on WMAQ-Channel 5.




"I can see why you have that problem," he says, ogling the masseuse's prodigious cup sizes, a move that apparently revs up her randy button so much she bad-mouths his wife: "A woman who treats her man that way can't expect to hold onto him forever!"

Watching this scene, I laugh out loud, but not as much as I laugh later when Richard and his wife fight and he storms off by opening a door, only to find his son standing there -- just standing there, on cue, tears streaming down his cheeks. In his baseball cap. Shaking his head at his adulterous dad. Ha! That's moronically delightful.

"The Poseidon Adventure" is why people make fun of TV movies. The ones that are this bad are almost worth watching under certain conditions. It reminds me of seeing Stephen King's "The Langoliers" with a couple of people, a 12-pack of beer and a bellyful of laughs that were unloosed by the movie's "rip in the fabric of time" high jinks.

It's not certain "The Poseidon Adventure" is funny-awful enough to recommend for that purpose. But if it is to be viewed, it is with the understanding it fits most synonyms of the word "horrendous," even if it is inadvertently comical at times.

Comical, as when survivors plot their way through the upside-down ship, and someone says, "The Internet Lounge is on the way. We should try to get an e-mail out," and another character replies, "Yes, like a virtual mayday!"

It's so stupefyingly rotten that when a terrorist shoots a ship commander in the heart, it takes 25 seconds -- I counted -- for the dead victim to fall to his knees.

This is the kind of vapidity that the satirical makers of "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" series made irrelevant two decades ago by ridiculing such movies as -- 1972's "The Poseidon Adventure."

But maybe this "Poseidon Adventure" is right for you, if you and your friends enjoy sitting around, getting buzzed and watching a terrorist in a jaunty blue vest mumble "Dinner is served!" before he plugs a couple of bullets into ship cooks.

That scene plays as if it's a "Simpsons" parody of this movie. But a parody of "Poseidon" is not necessary. It is quantifiably ludicrous all by itself.

 


The Poseidon Adventure
Citytv and NBC, 8 p.m.


There are couple of things about The Poseidon Adventure, NBC's waterlogged three-hour remake of Ronald Neame's 1972 disaster classic, that are plain as day right off the bat, so to speak.
One, thanks to breakthroughs in filmmaking technology -- computer-generated effects and the like -- you'll no longer wonder if you're watching a toy in a bathtub. In a post-James Cameron world, viewers would tolerate cheesy `70s-era effects for just so long before wandering over to another channel. Why settle for `70s cheese if you can have 21st century computer effects?
Secondly, as slick and polished as the remake looks, it has none of the original's goofy charm or quotable moments.

The cast is certainly splashy, by TV-movie standards.
Peter Weller, as the ship's skipper, Capt. Paul Gallico -- nudge, nudge, wink, wink: Paul Gallico is the name of the author who wrote the novel the first film was based on -- Adam Baldwin, as a counterterrorism agent; Rutger Hauer; Steve Guttenberg; Bryan Brown; C. Thomas Howell; and Alex Kingston, etc. are credible, capable performers to be sure. But they aren't Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowell, Stella Stevens or the great Waddy Wachtel.
Real Poseidon Adventure buffs will miss those classic lines, too, as when Stevens's society babe says, "I'm going next. So if ol' fat ass (Winters) gets stuck, I won't get stuck behind her."
Or that moment when the panicky purser -- why does the purser always panic in disaster epics like The Poseidon Adventure? -- cries, "For God's sake, Reverend, what you're doing is suicide!"
And Hackman's Rev. Frank Scott cries back. "We're cut off from the rest of the world. They can't get to us. Maybe we can get to them. You've said enough, now get out of the way."
Classic. TV dialogue seems, well, wet by comparison.
For the real Poseidon Adventure aficionado, too, there can be no substitute for Leslie "Oh, my God" Nielsen as the ship's original skipper, Capt. Harrison.
True, Nielsen lasted all of 20 minutes before he was carried out to sea on the crest of a giant wave, but that moment on the bridge, when he's watching the wave surge toward the ship through his binoculars, is, dare I say, epic.
Weller may make a good ship's captain, but he's no Leslie Nielsen. Bottoms up!

 



Nov. 22, 2005

Morning after, NBC's 'Poseidon' neither sinks nor swims


It didn't sink, but it didn't really float, either. NBC's three-hour remake of the 1972 ocean-liner disaster flick "The Poseidon Adventure" sailed off with 9.6 million viewers and 3.1 rating/7 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research. The telepic, starring Adam Baldwin, Rutger Hauer and Steve Guttenberg, peaked from 10-10:30 p.m. at 10 million viewers and 3.4/8 in the demo. The big Kahuna of the night, of course, was ABC's lethal combo of 9 p.m.'s "Desperate Housewives," (26 million, 11.0/24) and 10 p.m.'s "Grey's Anatomy" (20.8 million, 9.5/23), the latter of which hit its highest marks of the season to date. And 8 p.m.'s "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (17.5 million, 6.7/16) was no slouch for ABC either. (Cynthia Littleton)