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THE PERFECT STORM

Review by Andrew Manning (7/00)

Release: 2000, Warner Bros.
Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] violence, language
Genre: Action/Drama




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SUMMARY

When a stubborn fishboat captain (Clooney) takes his crew out into the Atlantic to catch a quarter million dollars worth of swordfish, three stormfronts converge upon their position, putting them at ground zero of one of the most powerful natural disasters in history. Based upon a true story.

THE SUDDEN RUNDOWN

A few decent action scenes fail to make up for this badly scripted, badly acted tale of saltwater hillbillies determined to make the most foolish decisions--at whatever the cost.

WHAT'S GOOD

The Perfect Storm is good at is showing the day to day operations of a commercial fishing boat, offering an interesting glimpse into the lives of the dudes who do this kind of stuff for a living: a gang of scruffy fishermen load up in a boat, snag giant loads of fish, come back to shore, sell the goods, and use the money to drink, pick up women, then drink again. Pretty damned cool. I was also impressed with the authenticity of the boat's interior: from the cramped, mildewed bunks to the sloppy galley with the outdated VCR, it was just like all the dirty, chartered fishing trips I've ever been on.

Virtually all of the characters in the story have family "back home" on land--and virtually all of the relationships explored suck. The only exception (maybe) is the brief scene between John C. Reilly and his ex-wife and son. From their short time on-screen, you can tell his character regrets the mistakes in his life, and wants nothing more than his ex and his kid to be happy. He turns out to be the only sympathetic character--everyone else you want to die in the storm.

A couple of the action scenes are passably decent. The best one is when Reilly's character gets a giant hook clean through his hand and gets snagged into the icy waters. Another okay scene finds the crew unwittingly reeling in a shark, which tries to take a bite out of Marky Mark as soon as it hits the deck.

I wish I could think of some other positive points in this movie, but unfortunately, I'm already fresh out.


WHAT'S BAD

Whenever you hear that Time, Newsweek, and USA Today have all given praise to a certain movie, it's a clue that maybe you should run like hell. Like an apocalyptic alignment of the planets, it's apparently a rare convergence that spells doom. I think the last time I heard all three publications raving over the brilliance of a film was the last time George Clooney and Marky Mark teamed up for the big screen in 1999's Three Kings. That was the single most overrated film of the year in my book, but whereas that movie was merely overrated, The Perfect Storm has been out and out misjudged. Any film critic who can hail this wad of crap as "pure genius" should be drawn and quartered. This movie is chock full of God awful characters, with writing lifted straight from a daytime soap opera.

The acting is atrocious. Marky Mark is playing the exact same character he played in Three Kings, Boogie Nights, and The Big Hit--a well meaning schmuck who gets into trouble. My impersonation of every single Marky Mark movie character goes like this: Say, "Aw, baby, that's all right--you know I love you" in a lilting, apologetic voice. I went into The Perfect Storm thinking it might actually break this stereotype. But what happens in the first thirty minutes? Walhberg's character apologizes to his wife and says, "Aw, baby..." Jeez, the guy is striving for the William Shatner level of typecasting, and no one even seems to notice!

George Clooney is no better. As in Three Kings, The Peacemaker, and even Batman and Robin, he's yelling orders and not getting the respect he thinks he deserves. What makes him particularly unlikable in The Perfect Storm is how stupid he is. His character lacks all common sense and confuses foolishness for bravery. He ignores everyone's warnings about how the biggest storm in history is coming right at him, and he pilots the boat through the waves like he's on a rollercoaster. And for the love of God, stop overdramatizing the fish! At every opportunity, he's talking like fishing is the greatest achievement in life, and he's apparently willing to risk everyone's life for that rush. Because he treats nature like a game, you can't wait to see nature whip it up and kick his ass.

Meanwhile, a weatherman back on the coast is looking at the reports on his computer. For the sole benefit of the audience, and to add even more theatrics, his job is to watch the stormfronts on his monitor and gasp crap like, "My God! The perfect storm...it shall be unstoppable, and a force that has never before been glimpsed by the eyes of man!" Okay, he doesn't say those exact words--but it's pretty close, and he still needs to be seriously beaten.

The worst part of The Perfect Storm is how stinking melodramatic it is. Marky Mark has a wife and mother back home, and the wife is always screaming about how the sea is breaking up her life. Wahlberg delivers the single worst line in all the movie: "I've got a girl back home I can't stand to be more than two feet from. Then again, I love to fish." This is simply some of the most stupid sh*t I have heard in all my life. In another particularly awful scene, Marky Mark's wife is yelling at his boss, telling him how his greed is destroying her marriage, and how she hates the fisherman's life. Mind you, all of this is being delivered with the soap opera hysterics of a woman who just found out that her husband has been cheating on her with the clone of her dead twin sister.

And as if there's not enough BS melodrama to go around, the movie has to go through the trouble of artificially creating it in surplus. The "loser" character in the crew hooks up with a fat woman the day before he ships out. He makes a bad pass at her that is outright offensive. Then he says something else to apologize, and the woman simmers down. She's no longer offended, but she still doesn't really like him. Then, when he leaves for work the next day, the fat woman meets him at the docks to wish him goodbye--suddenly, she has a world of feelings for him. When news hits that the crew is stuck in the middle of the biggest storm ever, she runs down to the bar (dragging her two kids with her, no less) and watches the news with trembling eyes on the verge of tears. Hello! The guy made a failed pass at you and exchanged weak banter for about five minutes! Suddenly, you're heartbroken at his possible demise and dragging your kids along for the ride like he was their father? Give me a break! If all the women I ever offended in five minute conversations fell in love with me, I'd be hooked up with honies the world over!

The visuals in The Perfect Storm are often far too chaotic to follow once the action gets good. Once the storm blows in, it's all wind and rain and darkness, and it's hard to see anything.

There's also a good deal of minor distractions. For example, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's character develops a spontaneous heavy accent just so she can belt out the line, "We're kicking up something wicked out here." But the bottom line is that The Perfect Storm is full of unsympathetic, knuckleheaded characters delivering the cheesiest dialogue imaginable. If it weren't for the big budget special effects and star studded cast, you'd literally be left with a direct to video B movie.

Everyone tells me, "But this was based on a true story!" They think that because I hate this movie, I'm somehow insulting the story of the real life guys who died in this storm. I have to point out that this is absolutely not the case. The documentaries that have been running on news shows and the History Channel (or the Discovery Channel--I can't remember which one) about these fishermen have been downright enthralling. But The Perfect Storm takes that fascinating story of dark nature and turns it into utter garbage. It's a completely failed attempt to examine lives. And if I were one of the guys who died in this storm and found out they made this awful movie in my memory, I'd come back from the grave to kick some ass Crow-style. There's a lesson to be learned here, folks: Hollywood needs to stop making disaster flicks.


Rating: 2 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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SEE ALSO...
Check out The Perfect Storm novel (which is better, if only by default)
Movie Review: Three Kings
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