Cliches become cliches because they are largely true. And since "The Perfect Storm" is based on a true story and real people, you can't expect the film makers to let their imaginations run amok. And I guess it's possible that the crew of the fishing boat caught in the Storm of the Century had lives that largely consisted of stock Hollywood cliches.
But I doubt it.
If that were the case, however, it is the screenwriter and director's job to find an interesting angle to this story. Tell us about the science of the storm. Give us details about fishing and boats and how to pilot a ship in a hurricane.
In fact, there IS one completely fascinating and heroic angle to this story that begs for director Wolfgang Petersen's usually sure action-movie touch; but it only gets about 20 minutes of attention in this 2 hour and 10 minute standard disaster flick based on Sebastian Junger's best selling book.
George Clooney plays a steely eyed captain who grimly faces danger with a wide-eyed rookie by his side, played by Mark Wahlberg. No, this is NOT "Three Kings 2." Clooney is Billy Tyne the skipper of a sword fishing boat, the Andrea Gail, and he is on a losing streak, irritating the owner of the boat, sneeringly played by perennial heavy Michael Ironside.
The first dull hour of "The Perfect Storm" is largely spent in a local watering hole introducing us to Tyne's crew in a by the numbers fashion. Only John C. Reilly really makes much impact as Murph, a fisherman who misses his adoring young son and still loves his ex-wife.
Mary Elizabeth Mastriantonio plays Linda, a rival boat captain who would like to hook Billy Tyne, and Diane Lane is the woman who waits for Bobby. Both are badly under used in obligatory roles. Bob Gunton, Karen Allen and Cherry Jones have what amount to extended cameos as a trio aboard a yacht that first encounters the storm; but largely serve as foreshadowing for what the fishermen have in store.
While not as bad as the obnoxious "Gone in 60 Seconds," "The Perfect Storm" gives the silly car chase flick a run for its money as the year's biggest waste of acting talent.
Tyne and his crew tempt fate by heading out to fish in treacherous October. But even those who are wary of the idea, have no clue about what is coming. A storm and a weather front are about to mix with a hurricane and form the most powerful storm on record.
The pacing of this movie is a real problem. For the first hour, Clooney and company makes speeches about how much they love fishing -- though it's hard to see why -- and for the second hour they are screaming cryptic commands over the roar of a hurricane.
The special effects may be state of the art, but ultimately, digital water looks like digital water. The cartoon "Titan AE" has more convincing-- and exciting long view effects.
Then, out of the blue, some amazing people invade "The Perfect Storm." Air Force para-rescue jumpers -- or PJs as they are known -- roar through the storm in a helicopter and start jumping into 40 foot waves without lifelines in order to rescue the perishing.
Very soon, the anonymous heroism of the PJs is much more compelling than the well- outlined stupidity of the fishermen. THIS is what "The Perfect Storm" should have been about; not lionizing the New England version of the guys who get stuck on Saginaw Bay after ignoring the thin ice warnings (the book did focus more on the PJs).
The movie ends on a maudlin note, wallowing in male bonding, and even forces a soggy "Titanic" style romantic farewell over James Horner's monotonously sappy score. As tributes to Gloucester fisherman go, the 1937 Spencer Tracy classic "Captains Courageous" is not only a far better movie, it even has better action scenes.
The movie ends with Linda fondly remembering Tyne's soliloquy, "You are the captain of a sword boat, what could be better than that?" Well, being an Air Force rescue para jumper would sure get MY vote.