‘White Squall’ Leaves Viewers Foundering In Maelstrom Of Obscurity

Write down this rule: When the footage in a movie’s commercials is all from its last 30 minutes, it means the studio knows the first 90 minutes are a big ol’ bore.

That’s the case with the ads for “White Squall,” which suggest it’s the story of a fatal shipwreck and the trial to determine who was responsible. That stuff is great - the wreck is spectacularly vivid, with heart-rending images of the lives that are lost. And the brief courtroom scenes, which recall “A Few Good Men,” are moving in a hokey way.

Trouble is, that’s not what “White Squall” is about. Trouble is, I’m not sure what “White Squall” is about. Trouble is, the people who made “White Squall” aren’t sure what it’s about. The first 90 minutes of the movie aimlessly unite a dozen or so shirtless, hunky boys, who look like a get-together of the Playgirl talent pool. Because of vague problems at home, they’re spending their senior year of high school at sea under the tutelage of a crusty captain played by Jeff Bridges.

The boys’ problems go unexplored, and the boys are all so similar it’s impossible to keep them apart. Besides, we’ve been over thistroubled-young-men-inspired-by-a-difficultleader-whom-they-come-to-love territory before - they should have just titled this movie “Dead Sailors’ Society” and called it a day.

It’s typical of “White Squall’s” carelessness that we never learn why our supposed hero (played by Scott Wolf, of TV’s “Party of Five”) is on the ship in the first place. Wolf is quite good, especially near the end, when he and Bridges are finally given some scenes to act. It’s corny male bonding stuff, to be sure, but it’s effectively staged by director Ridley Scott, and it makes you wonder why the rest of “White Squall” is all wet.

xxxx “WHITE SQUALL” Location: Lincoln Heights, North Division and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Ridley Scott; starring Scott Wolf and Jeff Bridges Running time: 2:08 Rating: PG-13

OTHER VIEWS Here’s what another critic says about “White Squall:” David Hunter/The Hollywood Reporter: An excellent sea adventure with wide appeal, Ridley Scott’s “White Squall” stirringly recounts the true story of the ill-fated 1960-61 voyage of the “Albatross” - a brigantine run by the Ocean Academy for carefully selected young men. The film’s box office potential is fair to good, with upbeat reviews and strong word of mouth keeping it on course toward a hardy worldwide gross. Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “White Squall” - not to be confused with “White Zombie,” “White Christmas” or “White Fang” - is a waterlogged atrocity of oceanic proportions, with nothing to redeem it beyond some exquisite seascape photography that any goof can get by aiming the camera in the proper direction. Difficult to believe that Jeff Bridges and director Ridley Scott would willingly hook up with this cinematic shipwreck.

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