Every now and then there's a moment in one's pop cultural history that imprints forever upon one's psyche. One such moment for me was watching Bette Midler in concert during the late '70s. The Divine Miss M.—with the assistance of a sole chair—offered up her impersonation of Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. Does anyone else remember that impersonation, that inspiration? I laughed precisely because Winters' sympathetic portrayal of the overweight Belle Rosen and her graceful underwater rescue is unforgettable cinema. That scene is what made Bette's joke work!
Now, over 30 years later, The Poseidon Adventure has been reworked by Wolfgang Petersen into one of the first of this summer's blockbusters—Poseidon. I caught an advance screening of Poseidon last night and found it satisfyingly if not thoroughly entertaining for what it was: an homage to the disaster flick of 1972 that was part and parcel of the Irwin Allen consciousness that permeated my boyhood. I love disaster flicks!! It's something demiurgic in me.
Robert W. Welkos, L.A. Times staff writer, visited Stage 16—where Peterson filmed The Perfect Storm five years ago—to check out the making of Poseidon. Additionally, Ain't It Cool News has a compendium of production interviews chock-full of anecdotes and facts. There's no doubt that 30 years worth of special effects have made the infamous capsize scene by a rouge wave more realistic than before, if not more imaginative. I should say The Rogue Wave because—just as Kong will forever be the biggest gorilla—The Rogue Wave that capsizes the oceanliner Poseidon will undoubtedly survive as one of Hollywood's great cinematic characters. Peterson gave The Rogue Wave a chance in The Perfect Storm to see what she could do and—finding her more than adequate—cast her in Poseidon, where she makes your breath catch in your throat.
I get all my best ideas eavesdropping on public transit, especially when the bus is full of people who have just caught the film. There were two major complaints that I thought were appropriate: first, that the wave came too soon, that there wasn't enough build-up and, secondly, that The Poseidon Adventure succeeded because of its stellar cast, big name actors in a big budget disaster flick, whereas the actors in Poseidon few people knew, thus some kind of celebrity glamour was missing. There's Kurt Russell, who everyone kind of knows since he's been acting since childhood, and Richard Dreyfuss, who everyone probably knows if they've ever given a passing thought to UFOs and who I recently saw in his first acting role peeking over a shoulder in The Graduate, and Kevin Dillon, who I recognize from HBO's Entourage, and Emmy Rossum, who sang her heart out to the Phantom of the Opera, and Freddy Rodríguez of Six Feet Under fame, and at that I was already way ahead of most people on the bus.
But the true star is The Rogue Wave, right? That's why we came. That's what we wanted to see right away, no dillydallying. So how can we possibly complain about such an eagerly anticipated entrance? And what we should most likely commend is how Peterson maintained our interest thereafter, which he actually does. For starters, Josh Lucas is hunk hot when wet!! You enjoy that man flirting with every woman on the boat. What a killer smile!
Dreyfus is incidentally gay, which is really neither here nor there with regard to the plot other than to give him some sparkly earrings and a few lines of dialogue about being left behind for another man, which amounts to absolutely nothing in the face of The Rouge Wave eager to make her entrance. Dreyfus, as Richard Nelson, is obviously the character channeling Shelley Winters since, like her, he gets stuck in a tight place. But as awe-inspiring as The Rogue Wave is in Poseidon, I really miss the humor of The Poseidon Adventure. I miss Stella Stevens telling Shelley Winters to move her fat ass!
Poseidon opens Friday, May 12.