Thursday, December 31, 2020

Reserved Seating Presents the Bomb Squad: POSEIDON

 by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino

The review duo who think Fergie’s singing caused that tidal wave.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: Our Bomb Squad series returns with a look back at one of my favorite bombs of recent years, the Wolfgang Petersen directed remake of the 1972 disaster movie classic, The Poseidon Adventure. I went into Poseidon a bit leery because The Poseidon Adventure is on my Mt. Rushmore of disaster movies, but came away pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the new iteration. The film tells the familiar story of a doomed luxury ocean liner that is struck by a rogue wave on New Year’s Eve. Among the survivors attempting to escape the sinking ship are a gambler (Josh Lucas), a former mayor (Kurt Russell), a mother and son (Jacinda Barrett and Jimmy Bennett), a rich businessman (Richard Dreyfuss), a young couple (Emmy Rossum and Mike Vogel), a stowaway (Mia Maestro), a waiter (Freddy Rodriguez), and a douchebag (Kevin Dillon). Not all of them will survive. The film also co-stars Andre Braugher as the constantly wrong ship captain and Stacy Ferguson (aka Fergie) as a singer.

This revisit reinforced my Poseidon fandom. It’s shorter and more to-the-point than the original, leaving little space for exposition and character development and more time for action set pieces. I’m okay with that because enough color is brought to the proceedings in between action beats, such as the welcome reveal that the Kurt Russell character was once a fireman (Backdraft!) and he and Josh Lucas check a door for heat. The stunts and special effects are top notch in the film, too; the money is on the screen. This is also the viewing where I finally broke down and came to terms with my ironic love for all things Josh Lucas. It’s genuine now. I’m a JL stan. He does a solid hero turn in Poseidon, bringing a real Costner energy, by which I mean he’s a jerk, but he’s OUR jerk.

What did you think of Poseidon?
Rob: While I can’t say I’m as enthusiastic about Poseidon as you are, I’m definitely in the same boat (no pun intended) that it's a well-made movie that efficiently delivers everything we expect from the disaster genre. Wolfgang Petersen was on a pretty stellar American run at the end of the millennium, with movies like Outbreak, Air Force One, and The Perfect Storm defining much of that period’s blockbuster aesthetic. Though Poseidon — as the third remake of a popular novel — is still technically a “franchise film,” it feels quaint in a way that mainstream actioners wouldn’t once The Dark Knight and Iron Man re-make the mold just two years later. Appearances from of-the-moment actors like Emmy Rossum, Freddy Rodriguez, and (it has to be said) your boy Josh Lucas also freeze the movie in time, as does the Fergie cameo. Beardless Kurt Russell feels like a bit of an artifact, as well, as this is one of the last straight “leading man” roles we’d see him take before embracing his eccentric senior statesman status.

Adam: I like that Kevin Dillon is playing his part on Entourage with almost no variation.

Rob: Overall, Poseidon is a solid 7/10. It’s exactly what it needs to be, which feels like so much more of an accomplishment in this age of overstuffed, self-serious epics. I was shocked when I saw the ninety-eight-minute running time, and I was pleasantly surprised when that turned out to be all the movie needed to get its business done. Nothing feels like a tangent. No characters feel under-developed. The set pieces are nothing groundbreaking, but I appreciated the work required to stage action scenes in upside-down environments and the discipline required to shoot anything involving water.

One thing I found funny about the movie is also my first question to you: Once we leave the main ballroom, we barely cut back. Fergie. Andre Braugher. Those people are all dead, right?

Adam: I remember there being a beat where the water is about to break through into the main ballroom and Fergie hugs Braugher because they know they’re doomed. They’re all dead.

Rob: Okay, I definitely missed that beat, then. Carry on.
Adam: Speaking of all dead, this movie has some funny death scenes which added to my disaster movie enjoyment. My favorite is when Freddy Rodriguez is hanging on Richard Dreyfuss’s leg while Josh Lucas is trying to pull them both up out of an elevator shaft. It starts being funny when Lucas scolds Dreyfuss “KICK HIM OFF!” and Dreyfuss starts kicking Freddy Rodriguez crying “I’m Sorry. I’m Sorry.” Then the poor guy falls several stories down an elevator shaft before having a fireball elevator land right on top of him. It’s not meant to be amusing but the way it’s acted makes it hilarious to me.

Rob: Let me correct you there, my friend: He falls several stories down an elevator shaft and is impaled on a spike BEFORE having a fireball elevator land right on top of him. That’s what it looked like to me, anyway. Either way, it’s super hilarious. This movie apparently considers “letting a girl tag along on a cruise” to be some kind of high crime and misdemeanor. They even went out of their way to have Dreyfuss ask Rodriguez his name, which I thought was going to create some tension between Dreyfuss and Mia Maestro’s character when she finds out he killed Rodriguez to save himself. But then she’s like, “Oh, no. He didn’t really mean anything to me.”

Adam: This isn’t very critical but it dawned on me as I was watching Poseidon how much I love movies where large sections are just people climbing from one area to another, jumping over shit, screaming “Go Go Go!” at each other before they have to close hatches, etc. I respond to it on a primal level. Maybe I miss recess?

Rob: There’s really something to be said for that kind of action. Some might call it “brainless,” but I’d almost always take something with clear construction and measurable stakes over the exhausting inscrutability of something like Tenet. Hell, Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially an entire movie of what you’re talking about.
Adam: Is there an MVP performance/character in the movie for you? Besides Josh Lucas, I think Richard Dreyfuss’s character is so funny because we’re meant to think he’s a good guy but he lied to his business partners to trick them into going on a New Year’s Eve cruise with him and then he leaves them all to die while he tries to escape.

Rob: I actually enjoyed Mike Vogel as the douchey guy dating Kurt Russell’s daughter. It’s not even that he’s douchey, really (He insists on calling Russell “sir”), it’s just that all dudes in their early 20s are inherently douchey, no matter what they do. Russell seems to sense that and gives the kid the benefit of the doubt because he’s been there.

Anything else on Poseidon?

Adam: Just want to give everyone a recommendation to watch the original The Poseidon Adventure if you haven’t seen it. It’s one of my favorite disaster and New Year’s Eve movies. We’ll be back next time with an entry in our “Hundos” series, where we’ll be looking at 1991’s Stone Cold. I’ve wanted to see this movie for 29 years! Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. 2006 shall be known from this point forward as the year of Josh Lucas. Glory Road AND Poseidon in the same year? Are you kidding me??!!?? Fantastic!

  2. Also, I'm big on making grand declarations that go completely ignored. I'm used to it.

  3. I agree with Adam that the original The Poseidon Adventure is perhaps the greatest "disaster" movie.

    I've been meaning to re-watch Poseidon because I'm generally a really big fan of all of Petersen's work (Das Boot is in a tie for my favourite movie ever. Probably most watched movie ever too). I don't remember much about it other than the digital effects were really good. And that overall it was a little underwhelming.

    But I love the director and really love this type of movie (it's like recess!) so I'm definitely going to revisit this soon. Reserve a seat for me as well!