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'Poseidon' sinks a second time

The new "Poseidon Adventure" airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC/Ch. 5.
The new "Poseidon Adventure" airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC/Ch. 5.
NBC Universal

NBC's remake of "The Poseidon Adventure" can be described with an alternate title — "The Love Boat Sinks."


"Poseidon" has all the hallmarks of an episode of "Love Boat" — in addition to Your Ship's Captain (Peter Weller) and Your Ship's Doctor (C. Thomas Howell), you've got a bunch of has-been stars involved in silly stories of romance who board a cruise ship. The big difference is that the S.S. Poseidon capsizes and, eventually, sinks.

The three-hour TV movie, which airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5, is, of course, a remake of the hit 1972 theatrical film. In that movie, an ocean liner is struck by a tidal wave and capsizes during a New Year's Eve celebration.

In NBC's version — which is also based on Paul Gallico's novel — there's no tidal wave. But there is a terrorist plot. Hey, this is the 21st century!

Anyway, the terrorists manage to blow a hole in the side of the ship, which capsizes as the sea rushes in. Which leaves a handful of people struggling to work their way to the bottom of the ship — which is now on the top — to escape.

Actually, in a way, this version makes more sense than the original. The survivors know there's a hole in the hull they can escape through, as opposed to just hoping somebody is up there to cut through the bottom of the ship and save them.

Well, it makes sense until the last few minutes . . . but you'll have to watch to find out what goes wrong.

Some of the characters correspond directly to those in the '72 film: Rutger Hauer as the (much nicer) clergyman (originally played by Gene Hackman), Adam Baldwin as Mike Rogo — now an undercover agent for Homeland Security (then a cop played by Ernest Borgnine), Sylvia Syms as widowed Belle Rosen (although Shelley Winters — who got an Oscar nomination for the role— had a husband, played by Jack Albertson).

We've also got a cheating husband (Steve Guttenberg) who's trying to save his wife, kids and mistress; a reality-show producer (Bryan Brown), seemingly patterned on "Survivor" guru Mark Burnett, and his much-younger, pop-singer girlfriend (Tinarie Van Wyk), who was on an "American Idol"-like show; and, of course, the terrorists.

Some of this "Poseidon" completely mimics the original — including the scene with the guy falling into the stained-glass fixture on the ceiling of the capsized ship's ballroom. On the other hand, the original took place entirely inside the ship, and here we're saddled with boring rescue efforts (with Alex Kingston of "E.R." as the one in charge) — a move that completely undercuts the tension earned in the original film, in which the survivors and the audience had no idea what awaited them.

It is also, like the original, sometimes inescapably stupid. Like when the members of mission control for the rescue start applauding and hugging one another when they learn that a handful — you've got enough fingers to count them — out of almost 4,000 passengers and crew are saved.

About the best thing you can say about this production is that it doesn't trample on a classic. The original "Poseidon Adventure" wasn't a great film.

But this one isn't any better. And if you can't do it better, why bother to remake a movie at all?