The Perfect Storm – 2 stars

Twister but only marginally better acted.

The first 30 or so minutes is devoted to character development, so we can have an investment in our crew of six fishermen who will weather the storm. There is the romantic swordboat captain on a bad streak (George Clooney); the young turk in love (Mark Wahlberg); the divorced father of one fighting to maintain a relationship with his son though he is a man of “the sea” (John C. Reilly); the poor white trash outcast (William Fichtner); the old salt who just met love in the form of a lonely, overweight woman at the bar (John Hawkes); and the superstitious guy (some Creole person). Fichtner and Reilly don’t get along for reasons that make little sense, except that one must thereafter save the life of the other, which is exactly what happens.

We also meet the women who love the men who bring us fish filets: a hard-bitten divorcee (Diane Lane) who curses the day a sail was set; a hard-bitten tavern owner and mother of two of our ill-fated crew; the competing hard-bitten captain who wants to transfer Clooney’s heart from the sea to her stern (Mary Elizabeth Mastraontonio); the hard-bitten overweight woman with two kids who waits for the grizzled guy; the ex-wife of Reilly; and some floozie who shacks up with the superstitious Creole guy.

To a person, the character development is hackneyed and lame. Hollywood goes to Gloucestor and gets an accent – and that’s all. If you juxtapose the developments of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw in Jaws prior to their going out in the water, The Perfect Storm becomes even more painful.

As for the storm, it is technologically impressive, and it makes the film viewable. It is also assisted by a gripping subplot involving a Coast Guard air/sea rescue (the insights into the pilots of the rescue helicopter are better communicated through a few lines during stress than all of the preceding soliloquies of the main charcaters). But even during the technical wizardry, we are treated to two godawful bids for supporting actress nominations by Lane and Mastroantonio . . . big, gloppy, weepy, leaden and ultimately, unconvincing speeches.

And, inexcusably, the film even has an old sea captain making salty pronouncements at the bar.

“Ayyy matie! Let me tell you about the storm on ’62.”

The entire schmaltz-fest is coated in a gooey James Horner score. At end, rather than dab a tear from your eye, you are more inclined to go out for seafood and question the heroics of six men who risked life and limb (theirs and those of rescuers) so they could make a buck (they risk The Perfect Storm because the ice machine on their boat broke, and if they wait the storm out, the fish will rot).

And they don’t wear life preservers.

Final note: the film is about swordfisherman, but they assure us that no animals were harmed during its filming, which means most of the picture’s budget was expended on wiggly, rubber fish.


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