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New 'Poseidon Adventure' is a disaster

Lame story, less-than-special effects sink NBC's effort

From left: Steve Guttenberg, Amber Sainsbury, and Rutger Hauer star in the remake of the 1972 film.
From left: Steve Guttenberg, Amber Sainsbury, and Rutger Hauer star in the remake of the 1972 film. (NBC Universal)

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.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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