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'Poseidon' avoids that sinking feeling

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"Poseidon" runs a bit more than 90 minutes, and that's a plus. Movies these days, particularly big tent-pole franchise movies, are almost always overlong. The relative briskness of "Poseidon" ensures that things won't get bogged down. If a sequence is dull, you can be sure it will soon be replaced by another, and another.

And since most of the action in this Wolfgang Petersen melodrama is spectacular, there's little need to worry. Petersen has twice before navigated his way through these shoals, in his great U-boat picture "Das Boot" and the not-so-great "The Perfect Storm" (which did have that amazing monster wave to recommend it).

"Poseidon" has little relationship to the 1972 film "The Poseidon Adventure," except for its name and premise: a mammoth luxury cruise ship in the North Atlantic is hit by a rogue wave, rolls completely upside down, and begins to sink. I have a fondness for the original, which helped inaugurate the tsunami of disaster flicks, such as "The Towering Inferno" and "Earthquake," that followed in its wake.

Being bunkered for almost two hours with Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, and the pre-"Airplane" Leslie Nielsen was camp heaven. It beats being trapped with the new movie's crew, which includes Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, Kevin Dillon, and Jacinda Barrett - a much more straight-faced bunch. "Poseidon" would have been better if it was over the top.

But Petersen is a rather humorless sort. He sticks to the bare bones of the plot and provides very little in the way of comic relief. The personal stories of the main characters are quickly sketched in and then set aside. Nothing impedes the forward momentum.

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