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‘Waterworld’ (PG)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 28, 1995

As they say about the Beaujolais: It has arrived. I refer to

"Waterworld," Kevin Costner's ocean epic, the most expensive movie ever made and, probably, the most flooded with problems. During filming, Costner's marriage went under, production costs soared, bad weather in Hawaii destroyed expensive sets and delayed filming, and Costner made director Kevin Reynolds walk the gangplank before the cameras wrapped.

But now that "Waterworld" is in, what's the real verdict? If you're looking for some harmonic combination of art and entertainment (something along the lines of Stanley Kubrick's "2001"), you're treading water in the wrong sea park. This $150-million (and counting) production, starring Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Hopper and precocious Tina Majorino, has been budgeted chiefly for spectacle. And if the story (by Peter Rader and David Twohy) seems a little waterlogged, it's still big, loud, and fun to watch.

Way, way in the future, everything's underwater. Polar ice caps have melted. The inhabitants of what used to be Earth live an aquatic "Road Warrior" existence. There are Drifters, the seabound equivalent of wandering varmints; Atollers, who live in man-made, floating cities; and Smokers (led by Hopper), a collection of muscular, evil pirates who ride jet skis, plunder and (worst of all) puff cigarettes.

The most striking character of all is the Mariner (Costner), an extraordinarily resourceful human/sea creature with webbed feet and gills behind his ears who traverses the waters. His sailing craft, a trimaran, is a world of its own, with countless, diverse collectibles, water-purifying gizmos and complicated pulley systems.

Costner sails into a floating city to trade his small jar of dirt (a precious commodity) for drinking water and other needs. Just as the gill-phobic Atollers capture him and lock him in a cage, Hopper and his Smokers invade the place. (In this movie, whenever a crisis comes up, an even bigger one comes along to interrupt it.)

Local woman Tripplehorn, accompanied by her charge Majorino, frees Costner and they sail off as Hopper's men destroy the place. Hopper, who thanks to Costner loses his eye in an explosion, chases after them. But what he really wants is the map—tattooed on Majorino's back—which purportedly shows the route to Dryland, this world's terra-firma paradise.

"Waterworld" brings in welcome comic relief, most of it involving Majorino and her various adult opponents. "You're not so tough," she informs Costner at one point, after the annoyed Mariner threatens to toss the chatty girl into the drink. Although he starts off a little cold (about the level of his so-so NFL commercials), Hopper gets into comic stride too, Jack Daniels in one hand, smoldering cigarette in the other. Trying to coax Majorino into explaining the map on her back, he offers her a cigarette, saying, "Never too young to start." And when Costner shows up to rescue the preteen from Hopper's clutches, the Smoker leader retorts: "Are you sure she's worth all this? She never does stop talking." Amidst the post-apocalyptic clashing, there's always time for cartoonish behavior, which is kind of consoling. If the future of the Mariner, his aspiring family—and all humanity—looks bleak, at least everyone's going to go down laughing.

WATERWORLD (PG-13) Contains sexual situations, partial nudity, violence and profanity.

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