Sanctum

So here we have it: the first Australian made 3D blockbuster-to-be, with none other than box office king of the world James Cameron attached as executive producer.

Sanctum is the story of a underwater cave diving team who explore one of the world’s most treacherous cave networks and, lo and behold, have a great deal of trouble emerging unscathed.

The same can be said about the cast’s reputations. Led by a hammier than a Christmas ham Richard Roxburgh, the actors’ credentials get stuck to the slimy walls of director Alister Grierson’s imbecilic adventure disaster pic.

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Roxburgh plays Frank, a fair dinkum diving expert who leads a whiny team to a cave network deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Frank’s son Josh is his water weight next of kin who looks and sounds like he strayed from the set of Home and Away – how appropriate that actor Rhys Wakefield used to star in precisely that show.

Frank and Josh are accompanied by a small team of irritating twits who bicker about what to do after flash floods drench the caves innumerable crevices and passageways. They try mighty hard to get out, but Mother Nature and the shonky storytelling blueprint outlined by screenwriters John Garvin and Andrew Wight have different ideas, at least for some of them.

The cast badly overplay their performances, hollering at each other as if their ears have been water logged by the floods. Virtually every breath they exhale delivers a thundering reminder that we’re watching a movie, and a very bad one at that. You know you’re in trouble on the acting front when The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen delivers one of the better performances, which a) lasts for about two minutes and b) isn’t very good.

The audience are stuck with a gang of cookie cutter cut-outs in claustrophobic watery settings, which, with virtually every shot echoing the same mundane colour schemes, struggle to take advantage of Jules O’Loughlin’s proficient, at times slick cinematography.

The schmaltzy father/son dynamic at the slippery heart of Sanctum’s story could hardly be more contrived or sentimental; absorb the flashbacks and recitations of an Inspiring Poem and pass the barf bag. It’s lazy writing and as emotionally inspiring as Rob Schneider standing on the sidelines yelling “you can do it!”

Much has been said of James Cameron’s attachment to the project, but he was never going to direct a movie as feeble minded and infuriating as this. Sanctum is a blockbuster wannabe with the emotional depth of an inflatable kids pool and the dramatic punch of a whoopee cushion. Not good bad but bad bad; the kind of gigantic lemon engineered to appeal to everybody at the cost of satisfying virtually no one.

Sanctum’s Australian theatrical release date: February 3, 2010.