Picks and Pans Review: White Squall

updated 02/05/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/05/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jeff Bridges, Scott Wolf

As preachy and joyless as its main character, this blowhard of a movie is based on a real incident. It involved a floating prep school, the Albatross, which foundered in a violent storm in the Gulf of Mexico in 1961, killing four students and two crew members. Tales of sailing, with all their ready-made drama and visual excitement, ought to be foolproof. But all we get here is a wave of soaking wet clich├ęs starting with Bridges, in steely-eyed, overearnest mode, as the minor league Captain Bligh-like captain-headmaster of the vessel.

The boys are a whiny, tedious lot headed by Wolf, who explains the obvious in voice-over narration. There's your standard teacher's pet and your standard spoiled, rich kid, with all the usual rich-dad bashing. Balthazar Getty, who appeared in the too-similar Lord of the Flies in 1990, is the student with the most sailing experience (and acting ability).

Director Ridley Scott brandishes a succession of sunsets and sails-against-the-horizon shots but lets the screen go to a chaotic muddle during the climactic storm. It's almost impossible to tell who's drowning and when. No matter. This eminently forgettable project will soon be gone with wind. (PG-13)

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