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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie begins with some family tension -- a single father and his teenage daughter clash over her boyfriend -- but as soon as the wave hits (some 10 minutes in), the brutal, often fatal, action is non-stop. So are the bodies: Broken, bloodied, and burned corpses appear every time the core group of survivors turns a corner. This group is beleaguered by fires, explosions, flooding/rushing water, and crashing architecture as they make their way to the surface. They teeter across hand-made bridges over dizzying heights, get locked in flooding rooms, fight with each other, and risk their lives for each other.
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What's the story?
In this remake, a New Year's celebration aboard a luxury liner turns disastrous when a 150-foot rogue wave slams the ship and flips it upside down. Rejecting the captain's (Andre Braugher) advice to wait, passengers try to find a way to the top of the ship, led by ex-firefighter Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell). He's occasionally preoccupied by his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), who is in turn preoccupied by her fiancé Christian (Mike Vogel). Before the wave hits, gambler playboy Dylan (Josh Lucas) is hitting on single mother Maggie (Jacinda Barrett). After, he's saving her young son Conor (Jimmy Bennett). As the group makes its way to the surface, the individual characters take a back seat to the pyrotechnics, the water, and the weird upside-down spaces the group must negotiate. While a recently brokenhearted gay architect Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) takes an interest in the underclass pair -- busboy Marco (Freddy Rodríguez) and his just-met stowaway friend Elena (Mía Maestro) -- the others pretty much stick with their (white and moneyed) kind.
Is it any good?
Why cast Andre Braugher if you don't use him? In his role as captain, he's relegated to making a couple of feeble speeches and then leaves everyone on board to their dire fates. When he advises passengers to wait to be rescued, you know he's wrong, and also that he's not long for the film. That's too bad, because the survivors are a dull lot. It's mentioned that Kurt Russell's character used to be "mayor of New York," which is never explained, but plainly draws on post-9/11 desires for heroes). None of the characters or their relationships are presented for more than a minute to two, and so none solicits much emotional investment.
That's not to say the folks in gowns and tuxedos don't learn some lessons in loss and courage. But they do so incidentally. The point in a disaster film is fear and relief and some more fear: It's a ride. Here, you watch characters work to get out of small spaces, endure water and fire, and make their way to more small spaces.