May 17, 2006 at 12:00 am

It's not even summer yet, and already the first turkey of the season has arrived. A pointless remake of a disaster flick that was a joke to begin with, this new Poseidon gets rid of everything that was awesomely cheesy about the 1972 original The Poseidon Adventure — priests, ex-hookers, ridiculous costumes, Shelley Winters — in favor of would-be survivalist thrills and overblown CGI. Hell, there isn't even a decently hammy cast: The film is packed full of today's least-wanted B-list actors, including wispy, irritating women like Jacinda Barrett (the Aussie model from The Real World: London) and Emmy Rossum, and gruff dudes who look more like Rogaine spokesmen than Hollywood actors. It's not just that you don't care about the characters; you don't care about the people who made the film, not to mention the agents and executives who probably tacked a few Hummers and Malibu beach houses on to the reported $150 million budget. Poseidon takes not caring to a whole new level: It's the Enron of summer blockbusters.

In the original script there was, perhaps, the promise of a decent story, or at least some character arcs, to lure elder statesmen like Richard Dreyfuss and Kurt Russell into signing on. But the final product is just a high-concept premise followed by 80 minutes of people slogging through rising water, dead bodies and narrow passages. After nine months of Hurricane Katrina coverage, you'd hope that people wouldn't pay to see that. But in Hollywood, tasteless bad ideas must always see light of day, particularly if pre-production dollars have been wasted on them.

After a clumsy brief introduction to the half-dozen or so main characters in the film — all of them aboard the doomed luxury liner for reasons never specified — a "rogue wave" strikes the Poseidon and capsizes it, sending the insanely rich New Year's Eve revelers scrambling for the surface. And once the opulent ballroom is literally upside-down, our heroes decide to leave all the black folks behind (yet another tasteless Katrina parallel), including the hopelessly optimistic captain, played by Andre Braugher. Through it all, Black Eyed Peas jiggle queen Fergie looks about as comfortable playing a swanky nightclub singer as Celine Dion would be at a Krump dance-off.

The script by Mark Protosevich basically consists of the lines "I can't make it!" and "No, you can make it!" repeated ad infinitum, as would-be star Josh Lucas makes his bug-eyed "intense" face a lot and gallantly jumps across giant chasms or through fireballs. None of the actors appear to be having a good time, except for Entourage's Kevin Dillon, playing a greasy-haired and leisured gambler who can't resist commenting on the hotness of his co-ed survivors as dying people gush blood all around him. Dillon's the only one who seems to enjoy the lameness of the whole production, the only one who understands what makes disaster movies fun. And wouldn't you know it, he's one of the first to die.

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].