*1/2 (out of four)
Grouchy adventurer Frank (Richard Roxburgh) is obsessed with swimming through caves at the deepest reaches of the earth, which hasn't left him much time to bond with his son Josh (Rhys Wakefield). They have more time to get to know each other when the bickering pair (and a handful of other generic explorer-types) become trapped deep below the surface and have to find their way out.
The buzz: I stayed out in the blizzard for the screening of "Sanctum" but learned no helpful tips for escaping deeply dangerous conditions, since I already knew to "Never give up." (I made it home fine, thanks for asking.) The 3-D film is executive produced by James Cameron (the technologically advanced, otherwise derivative "Avatar") and "inspired by a true story," though the plot of "Sanctum" is so thin that the reality could have been: A dad and his son once went swimming and got lost.
The verdict: How about an on-screen map or graphic or something? Director Alistair Grierson never makes it clear where the characters are in proximity to the surface or anywhere else. So "Sanctum," which should have been a documentary, is just one location of water and rocks after another without a sense of forward (or backward) progress. Laughable performances deliver horrible dialogue like "Life isn't a dress rehearsal, Josh; you gotta seize the day" while characters take much too long to drown in predictable order. There aren't even any creatures down there. When you can't even clearly see how Boring Character No. 2 gets stuck in an underwater tunnel and how she's trying to get out, you can be forgiven for wishing a prehistoric shark would come out of nowhere and finish the job.
Did you know? Apparently "cave" can be used as a verb, so when questioning the purpose of exploration it's customary to ask, "Why do we cave?" On a side note, someday I'd love to rainforest.
"Sanctum" is also playing in select IMAX theaters. Find local showtimes here.