Summer movie escapism has the disaster genre given a preposterous rollercoaster ride in the stripped-down Poseidon.
Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, The Perfect Storm) augments the set pieces and action in a manner that isn't entertaining for the viewer rather than involving like a computerized maze.
The concept of a "rogue wave" turning a humungous cruise liner (think Queen Mary 2) upside down is reignited by Petersen and his writer Mark Protosevich (The Cell) for maximum visual effect. Thousands of passengers are celebrating New Year's Eve with entertainment by Fergie and the Captain (Andre Braugher) speaking about the meaning behind the eponymous ship on its way to New York.
The passengers include a cast led by Josh Lucas (Glory Road) and Kurt Russell (Dreamer). They are the key players in a desperate group out to get to the top from the bottom, as they've flip-flopped. Richard Dreyfus is a suicidal gay architect, Jacinda Barrett (Ladder 49) is a perky single mother, and Mia Maestro is pretty good as a Spanish stowaway giving some diversity, while Emmy Rossum (Phantom of the Opera) emotes for her boyfriend whom she wants her ex-mayor dad (Russell) to really like.
Petersen stages some scenes with some panache, like during the upheaval of the ship, Lucas's gambling man's big dive into fiery waters, or even Barrett's son (Jimmy Bennett) being saved, then doing a lot in a confined space with a cross chain necklace.
Still, despite the presence of very attractive actresses like Barrett, Rossum, and Maestro (good with Dreyfus and has a dire moment when it looks like wires are around her like a squid), the bloated budget tramples everything in a somber way that makes one think of how many could hold their breath underwater longer than David Blaine. It probably will engage many out for the IMAX experience, but Poseidon is way too unsophisticated for its own good when it comes to abandoning character and storyline for the purposes of explosions and propelling heroes to the surface.