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Dan's Review: "San Andreas" has its faults, but isn't a complete disaster

Jun 11, 2015 06:23PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Carla Gugino and Dwayne Johnson in San Andreas - © 2014 Warner Bros.

San Andreas (Warner Bros.)

Rated PG-13 for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Will Yun Lee, Alec Utgoff, Matt Gerald, Todd Williams, Colton Haynes, Morgan Griffin, Kylie Minogue.

Written by Carlton Cuse, Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore.

Directed by Brad Peyton.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

Some movies are disasters; others are disaster movies. I’m not sure what’s so great about watching thousands of people die in cataclysmic events, but they seem to keep folks packed into theaters. San Andreas is the latest in catastrophic movie fare, complete with big budget special effects, ridiculous coincidences and slippery science.

Dwayne Johnson stars as Ray Gaines, a Los Angeles fire/rescue helicopter pilot and EMT who’s going through a divorce from his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino). On the day when he’s supposed to take his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) on a trip to her new college, a major earthquake (the first of many) strikes right under Hoover Dam in Nevada. Just before the quake strikes, a team of scientists led by Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), arrives to monitor the situation. After one of his colleagues is killed during the dam break, Hayes confirms that the San Andreas Fault is on the verge of erupting into a series of big quakes. Before he can get the word out, his predictions come true, and most of California rumbles into death and chaos. At the same exact time, Emma is having lunch with the snooty sister (Kylie Mingue) of her wealthy new boyfriend Danny (Ioan Gruffudd) at a rooftop restaurant in L.A., as Danny brings Blake to San Francisco with him during a business trip.

Ray (already flying by himself in an LAFD helicopter) heads straight to the high-rise restaurant to rescue Emma, and the two head for San Francisco to save Blake. In the meantime, the quake has trapped Blake in the parking garage under Danny’s high-rise office building, as Danny abandons her to save his own skin. A hunky young English fellow named Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) rushes to her rescue, along with his kid brother Ollie (Art Parkinson), who is tagging along for some strange reason during Ben’s job interview with Danny’s firm.

More major quakes hit, causing more death and destruction as Ray and Emma race to save their daughter from a coming tsunami.

San Andreas follows the rigid rules of any successful disaster movie. You’ve got your conflicted hero, his family in peril, a rich guy (ready for some comeuppance), stupid mistakes by uninformed “officials,” shaky science, a plethora of unexplainable and contrived science – not to mention a heaping load of lucky coincidence that save our protagonists from impossible scenarios. There’s also a plenteous supply of screaming victims who die in diverse and assorted means, set against a background of epic computer-generated special effects.

Hey, if you like a good popcorn movie that’s loud and destructive, San Andreas is for you. If you’re looking for a clever script and an original story, San Andreas has more than enough faults (pun intended) to keep you from paying full price at the theater. Dwayne Johnson is his regular bigger-than-life self, surrounded by a more than capable cast, but the characters are pretty much the same ones you’ve seen in every other disaster movie.

The California Tourism Board ought to be a little conflicted. On the one hand, San Andreas showcases most of the Golden State’s iconic views. On the other, you get to see all of them crumble, burn, explode or wash away in San Andreas. Enjoy them while you can, I suppose.

 

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