The Perfect Storm (2000)

THE PERFECT STORM is the perfect bore.  Director Wolfgang Petersen 
(DAS BOOT, but that was years ago) weathers George Clooney and Com-
pany as deep-sea swordfish finders, merrily merrily marine-ing some-
where off the coast of Mass and smack dab in the path of a soon-to-
be-forming Storm of the Century(tm).  Now, the grizzled-- or least 
grizzled *looking*-- Cap'n Clooney is trying to balance the books 
with one, last, huge haul for the season.  Problem is, they ain't 
bitin'.  The all-male crew, in turn, turns edgy and experiences in-
creasingly severe testosterone flaring.  (Even cuter is when John C. 
Reilly and William Fichtner kiss and make-up and punch each other 
lovingly in the chest.  Awwww...)  Coming about from the main plot, 
secondary stories include the ladies on land-- the mothers, lovers, 
and ex-wives who are always on edge, even when the weather is nice.  
Another subplot, unrelated, is set on a sailboat that'll later need 
rescuing.  (An absolutely unnecessary subplot, if you ask me.  What, 
an endangered deep-sea steamer isn't suspenseful *enough*?  Are they 
*nuts*?)  Said sailboat bit then segues into a lengthy segment star-
ring an Air Force rescue helicopter, as it struggles to snatch the 
bone-soaked pleasure-cruisers and, later, attempts to reach the An-
drea Gail.  (That's the name of the big boat.)

Sounds exciting, right?  Wrong.  THE PERFECT STORM wears not one but 
*two* albatrosses around its neck.  First and most obvious-- since 
the battering starts from the start-- is the music by TITANIC com-
poser James Horner, a noted note-maker whose name in the opening 
credits *alone* is enough to inspire fear in fans of cinema du sub-
tle.  (Repeat after me:  Inhale.  Hold.  Exhale.  Hold.)  Rest as-
sured, there ain't no new-age noodlings here.  Nor does Celene Dion 
make an appearance.  [ Insert own vulgar comment ]  Instead, it's 
just your garden-variety orchestral syrup, varying amounts of which 
are smothered over darn near every scene.  (Nope, no quiet moments 
for this crew!)  My favorite intrusion:  a clanging cue right out of 
ALIENS, another Horner score from back when he was worth listening 
to, when our ol' friend Bruce the Shark (AKA Jaws) washes aboard.  
("Feel suspense now!" the music screams.)  I know, I know, be nice, 
but I can't help but think that there's a special seat in Hell re-
served for whoever keeps hiring Cloy Boy.

The movie's second great hindrance is the poor quality of the action 
scenes.  Most are flat-out confusing, due to the combination of clo-
ser rather than longer shots, motion sickness-affected cameras, and 
cutting so quick that there's never enough time to register what we 
are seeing.  Blink and something else is washing overboard, a victim 
of Crashing Wave #119.  Blink again and one of the sea-sprayed salts 
is climbing a mast.  (*Why* are they climbing?  That's not important 
right now.)  What results is a string of set pieces that generate 
*exhaustion* instead of excitement.  Please don't confuse the two 
emotions.  (Now and then there's an occasional eyebrow-raiser, like 
the first minutes of a near-drowning.  That is, unless you *are* a 
near-drowner, in which case the *entire* film is likely to terrify.)  
And please bear with the predictability of these scenes, as well.  
1:25, the first  "get out of there!"  1:35, first close-up of hand 
grabbing railing (both wet).  1:40, first "I can't hold her!"  1:43, 
first breaking into hysterics by woman back home. 1:50, first "we're 
alive!"  (For those feeling self-parodic, 1:31 is the first "Gilli-
gan's Island" flashback-inspiring shot.)

Dispelled disbelief is dispelled a dozen other ways, as well.  Such 
as the obviously computer-generated storm clouds.  (Kinda leaves you 
wishing they were never invented, no?)  Same with the CG waves, also  
fake-looking.  Same with the model ships.  (Come on, if you're gonna 
show a ship spilling containers off its side, is a little deck-shot 
footage too much to ask for?)  Hell, even the *full*-scale vessels 
occasionally look fake, thanks to the gray "haze" that hangs over 
every single storm scene.  Egad.  Let's see... the story could stand 
some more detail.  For example, the master baiters fish at night.  
All night?  Late night?  *After* midnight, when they can let it all 
hang out?  Sure, we're shown buoys and hooks and nets and lines.  
And, of course, fish guts.  Lots and lots of roly, poly fish guts.  
What's missing are the *specifics*.  Such as the passage of time a-
board the trawler.  Either the exact time of day/night, or simply 
how long the boys have been out.  (Really, just a one-second shot of 
a clock face would do.  Or that of a calendar.)  The Gail's geogra-
phic position is also tough to chart.  Superimposed titles relate 
her various positions, but they don't help.  (Maybe viewer familiar-
ity is presumed, either with Coastal Massachusetts or with the orig-
inal, read-in-one-sitting non-fiction novel?  It *was* a bestseller, 
after all.)

Last but not least are the accents.  The *actors* are all fine.  No 
problem.  No problem at all.  The actors *accents*, however, range 
from none (in Clooney's case) to "huh" (see Michael Ironside's ton-
gues-speaking ship owner).  Marky Mark and Mr. Reilly go the Massy 
route with mixed results; Reilly might as well be mumbling, while 
Wahlberg's drawl sounds suspiciously like something heard by way of 
the Big Apple.  (Speaking of "arrggh," is that the Sea Captain from 
"The Simpsons" who we keep seeing at the bar?)  The movie's most-
prominent female character is played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, 
who also affects an accent.  She plays a female skipper-- no, guys, 
not female *stripper*-- whose sweet on Georgie boy.  She's also the 
one with the very important responsibility of later screaming into 
the microphone "Are you there!?  Are you there!?  Are you there!?"  
(Was she in the book, BTW?)  Ms. Mastrantonio also has a lovely set 
of cheekbones that deliver the season's first Oscar-worthy perform-
ance.  I would vote for them.  With Diane Lane, Karen Allen, Allen 
Payne, Bob Gunton, John Hawkes, Janet Wright, Rusty Schwimmer, Josh 
Hopkins, Cherry Jones, and Christopher McDonald as the Beantown wea-
therman who gets to say the title words.  (Rated "PG-13"/129 min.)

Grade: C
Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros