IN ITS FAVOR, The Perfect Storm, based on a true story, has two superlatives: George Clooney and some fine, boiling seas. The seas are not worth spending too much time on; they are why you will (and you probably will) see the film, and they are, for the most part, adequately seductive--detailed and intense and elemental. Whoever created them did a good job; there is only a little tinniness around the edges to snitch on the CGI secret, and it is soon forgiven in the panic of the storm. While there is a uniform consistency to the images (it's all rolling hills and valleys of water, like Wales, only wetter), we have never really seen this landscape before, and it's exciting.

Also, George Clooney is worth spending a vacations' worth of time pondering, ogling, and admiring. (You might even get to licking and sucking; God knows I did.) He is the only satisfaction in this rotten salad of a film. In fact, The Perfect Storm is nothing if not an allegory of Clooney's emergent stardom: A fairly humble vessel (Clooney) unwittingly gets dragged into a raging, chaotic mess (the film), and though drowning in the chaos, emerges a hero.

From the first moment he is onscreen, dutifully mouthing his half-baked dialogue ("I catch fish--that's what I do!"), you know George will be fine. He floats through the film's desperate, inane architecture, all but oblivious to the very real disaster swirling about him. Even his delivery of the terminally hackneyed "love of fishing" monologue transcends beautifully. You don't listen to a word he's saying, you just bask in the smooth gravel of his voice and the warm glow of his eyes. In times to come, the public will raise his image in tribute to the courage he displayed in the face of the film's real, painful, devastating catastrophe: I am, of course, talking about James Horner.

For those of us whose limited, black-hearted prejudice is directed at one specific composer whose name is James Horner (Titanic, Deep Impact), this film will whip you into a murderous froth. Your sick rage will begin before the first image of the movie has had a chance to materialize from the murk of the screen, and it will chase you from the theater at film's end. Detest for Horner's hideous music will crystallize out of your super-saturated blood at the first ruinous note of his tawdry, ever-present score to The Perfect Storm, and will build over the following 132 minutes to levels that have never before occurred in recorded history.

The film itself--fraught with ham-fisted drama; painfully stupid dialogue; downright insulting characterizations; and some of the worst accent coaching ever--is a foregone conclusion from the start. Anyone who has set foot in this country over the past decade should be familiar with the 1991 story of six fishermen caught in a freak weather system off the coast of New England. Even if you hadn't read the bestseller the movie is based on, or read any of the numerous media accounts of the incident, you'd know things turn out badly for these fishermen because director Wolfgang Petersen bookends the film with a syrupy pan of the actual memorial wall that contains their names.

This forgone conclusion underpins the entirety of Horner's score. Saturated in melodrama and tragedy, it weeps forth, wringing its hands and blaring its trombones; desperately trying to rouse every sympathetic nerve in your body. Shattering forever the peace you may have attained in a darkened theater, the music penetrates your personal space like the drunken grope of a sad uncle, jabbing and swirling about in an obsequious bid for your love and pity. And it gets worse.

In a harebrained attempt to evoke the heroic, working-class nature of the protagonists, Horner has chosen to devote an entire staff of his over-built score to an ass-kicking guitar of the worst sort of suburban-pothead-savant variety. Uncannily reminiscent of vintage Van Halen (Wasn't Eddie recently sentenced to community service for a DUI? Might this be it?), this lousy guitar theme is greedily snapped up by no less a clown than John "Original Mullet" Mellencamp for the rousing theme song "Yours Forever." Deeply inhaling the stink that is the tragedy of our fishing folk, Mellencamp sings in his best middle-aged groan, "Kiss the waves, they're yours forever/and here's some dreams that will come true/take these tears, wash away your sorrow/Tomorrow still holds out its hands to you."

Writing about Horner and his current penchant for scoring disaster films, music critic J. W. Braxton notes, "Nowadays, it seems that if Horner is scoring the movie, you can virtually guarantee that something awful is about to happen to a lot of people." I couldn't agree more.