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SAN ANDREAS (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Beau Flynn, Hiram Garcia, Tripp Vinson
Screenplay by Carlton Cuse
Story by Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore
Directed by Brad Peyton
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario,
Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Kylie Minogue

San Andreas. Loved it.

Full disclosure: I love disaster films. Climate change, volcanoes, tornados, the earth’s core, meteors, all of it.

And now we have earthquakes! So suped.

Every trope and predictable sequence that make up natural disaster films is present and executed perfectly: an opening crisis followed by a scientific explanation of the movie’s featured disaster (in this case, earthquakes), a broken family, sad dad, doe eyed mom and daughter, and a doofy love interest with a little brother, all of whom fit cliché after cliché while spewing corny lines from a near non-existent script.

And let’s revel in the glory that they are constantly running away from cracks, crevices and falling buildings that lead to everyone else’s demise but them.

Message: never follow the hoi polloi.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Ray, a divorced and melancholy rescue pilot – he was previously a military rescuer, which explains his wild helicopter expertise.

Oddly, Mr. Johnson has the smallest role, but of course, the biggest biceps. He’s not the oh-so-intelligent and witty leader that Dennis Quaid or Pierce Brosnan is in Day After Tomorrow and Volcano, but he’s satisfyingly heroic and wears a furrowed brow with utmost dedication.

The mission of San Andreas is for The Rock to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco, his ex-wife in tow, in order to save his daughter from what will be the worst earthquake in history.

Ray’s capable and breast-y daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), is accompanied by her just-met-you-love-interest, Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), and his charming younger brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson). They all meet just as California is imploding on itself. Of course the damsel is in distress and I just couldn’t help myself—I not-so-quietly exclaimed, “the British are coming!”

Joy. Pure empty-minded joy.

Note, these performances aren’t good at all. There are occasional funny one-liners. But the focus of the film is to show the creativity of CGI creators and their ability to depict city destruction on the big screen.

And as San Andreas is the first earthquake movie, I was excited to see what special effects it had to offer. Didn’t disappoint. I was actually quite impressed by the birds-eye shots of waving city grounds and collapsing buildings. Super unsettling.

Kudos to the team who choreographed the spectacular implosion of city after city.

I must mention Paul Giamatti, the distressed and knowledgeable seismologist conveniently discovers he can predict earthquakes just as the worst one in history arises. His performance definitely trumps Dennis Quaid’s (Day After Tomorrow) role as a scientist. And while he doesn’t have Pierce Brosnan’s (Dante’s Peak) charm, Tommy Lee Jones’ (Volcano) wit, or Bruce Willis’ (Armageddon) ferocity, he’s delightfully frantic and disheveled, perhaps as the ignored intellectual of these films probably should be.

Now, don’t be naïve and expect a “good movie”. To my fellow disaster-loving moviegoers, enjoy the silly ride.

Remember, these movies are empty-minded funfests. But that’s only if you have a thing for natural disaster epics.

So don’t go in expecting stellar performances or a heightened sophistication of the genre. Same rules apply to romantic comedies or horror films. You’ve got to enjoy the formula.

San Andreas is a fun action-adventure movie that’s on par with Day After Tomorrow and Dante’s Peak (with superior special effects) and most definitely above The Core and 2012. Obviously, all are good drinking games when played on repeat on FX.

Go enjoy the simplicity and ridiculous destruction. I certainly did.

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