Language nearly sinks 'Poseidon'

5/16/2006

By Phil Boatwright

Poseidon
Stars:
Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Rating: PG-13

When a rogue wave capsizes a luxury cruise ship, a career gambler (Josh Lucas) ignores the captain’s orders to wait below for possible rescue and sets out to find his own way to safety.

Others join him, including a desperate father (Kurt Russell) searching for his daughter (Emmy Rossum) and her fiancé (Mike Vogel), a single mother (Jacinda Barrett) and her wise-beyond-his-years 10-year-old (Jimmy Bennett), an anxious stowaway (Mia Maestro) and a despondent gay passenger (Richard Dreyfuss) whose lover won’t return his cell phone calls. 

No stranger to disaster themes, director Wolfgang Petersen is given a hearty cast and a $175 million budget with one intent: to once again satisfy the Coliseum mob. For despite the story’s true catastrophe (the script itself), spectators still enjoy seeing the Christians thrown to the lions. Only in modern times, we not only see the not-so-good Catholic girls meet their doom for our amusement, but also middle-aged gay Jewish guys and other assorted rainbow victims. The movie-going public doesn’t seem concerned over the fate of the cardboard cutouts that stand in for human beings in disaster films. They’ve come to see the ingenious ways the lower-billed actors bite the big one (through electrocution, drowning or plunging from floor to ceiling — splat). 

Poseidon is not meant to stimulate the intellect, but rather to provide thrills of a more visceral sort.  If sweaty palms are any indication, then I’d have to say, it succeeded in its objective.

 If, however, you do not wish to support a film where a main character profanes God’s name several times, then try renting my video alternative: A Night To Remember.  This English 4-star version of the Titanic tragedy from Walter Lord’s vivid and emotional novel is exceptional filmmaking. Made in 1958, it still holds up, containing great disaster spectacle and moving performances, while avoiding objectionable content.

A Prairie Home Companion 
Stars:
Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly
Director: Robert Altman
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: June 9

Director Robert Altman and writer Garrison Keillor join forces with a superb cast to create a comic backstage fable about a fictitious radio variety show that has managed to survive in the age of television. 

Keillor is a combo of provincial raconteur and noble savage, a beguiling dispenser of wry homilies and casual empathy.  His chronologic storytelling and oddball characters console the listener/viewer, while slyly pointing a finger at our culture’s mediocrity. 

Altman’s free-flowing form is perfect for the intertwining of the different subplots, characterizations and motifs. And though Keillor wisely takes a supporting position throughout the proceedings, his distinctive, off-the-wall persona is ever present. He’s not just about getting the quick joke, but rather about creating a wistful world we not only get to visit, but hate leaving. Here he incorporates several touching, insightful moments concerning mortality.

That’s not to say that we are allowed to completely escape crudity or Christian bashing. Then one tale told by the Johnson songbird sisters has the siblings reflecting upon the unloving and overzealous nature of some believers. But those are moments of exception in this charming salute to bygone radio days. 

I enjoyed entering Garrison Keillor’s world, “where all the men are good looking, the women are strong, and the children are above average.”