One of the last pure action stars, Dwayne “Always the Rock” Johnson towers over every co-star he’s ever been assigned. In a world where few mere mortals can hope to win in a battle against the biggest badass named Dwayne in history, the only appropriate foe that Hollywood can serve up is Mother Nature. Thus we now have a movie that should have been titled ‘The Rock vs. an Earthquake’. I’m not one for spoilers, but I don’t think I’m ruining anything by letting you know that The Rock does in fact win that fight.
Good ol’ Dwayne stars as a legendary rescue worker and chopper pilot who can save just about anyone and anything… except his marriage. (Awwwww…!) He had a beautiful wife (Carla Gugino) and daughter (Alexandra Daddario), but they split up and it’s the only thing in The Rock’s life giving him troubles. That’s about to change, of course.
You see, Paul Giamatti has discovered a way to predict earthquakes just in time to know that California is about to be hit by the biggest one ever. Unfortunately, he can only predict them a few minutes in advance, so a big earthquake still rocks San Francisco to shreds while Daddario is trapped in the city. Thankfully, her father is The Rock and dammit he’s going to save her (plus a pretty British boy played by Hugo Johnstone-Burt who has an adorable little brother to help her along her way). He’s just got to save his ex-wife first. With a little luck, saving his family’s lives will also… er… save his family.
Yep, this is a movie in which the greatest safety rescue worker in California completely ignores millions of civilians and steals a helicopter just to save his family, with no fucks given for the rest of the poor souls killed in the tragedy. In the real world, that would make him quite horrible at his job. Thankfully, ‘San Andreas’ does not take place in the real world. Not even close. This is a big dumb disaster movie – one of the biggest and dumbest ever made.
The audience is invited to enjoy the mass destruction and implied death of millions in glorious 3D with no need for concern about the consequences just so long as the family unit in the middle of the story makes it out OK. Brad Peyton (‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ and ‘Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore’) directs it like a 3D theme park attraction in which the destruction is lovingly and brightly displayed in the biggest and most fun ways possible. Sure, there’s danger exploited for the purposes of suspense, but no sadness or sense of loss. It’s just big goofy fun with The Rock as a guide, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the silliness for at least a few minutes.
The problems with ‘San Andreas’ (and whoo-boy are there many) can all be assumed in advance based purely on the genre of the flick. Disaster movies aren’t exactly known for their subtle characterizations, carefully constructed plotting or, you know, anything other than boom-boom spectacle. This movie is no exception. You’ll be able to guess every character’s arc within 2-3 minutes of screen time. Huge plot holes will fly by as frequently as any of the earthquake debris. None of the performances come close to capturing actual human behavior, and you’ll spend most of your ride home afterwards struggling to decide exactly which scene was the stupidest.
For those who care not for such airhead pleasures, flee from ‘San Andreas’ at top speed. However, if you’re inclined to enjoy laughing at a big stupid disaster blockbuster as much as being floored by the spectacle, seek it out immediately. Its every bit as big and dumb as you’d hope, and The Rock is as charmingly Rocktacular as ever. It sure ain’t art, but ‘San Andreas’ is amusingly silly.