I’m sure that, like me, everyone has a movie or two they love but can’t exactly explain why. The movies may not be good, or even so bad that their good, but it’s nice to watch whenever it’s on cable or HBO. For me, those are movies like Armageddon, 50 First Dates, or 2 Fast 2 Furious. While some tastes may differ amongst others, there’s one genre of film that is destined for repeat viewings on basic cable when it’s late enough to binge on ice cream and watch TNT in your underwear; disaster movies. Things like Twister, The Day After Tomorrow and Volcano are big-budget bonanzas with little sense and a lot of spectacle. It’s never meant to attract critics, but to distract movie fans from the horrors of real life reminding them “hey, it could be worse, you could be caught in a giant flaming tornado.” Despite being something as disposable as Adam Sandler’s newest project, disaster movies are still alive and well, seen most recently in last year’s found-footage based Into the Storm. But now, the latest disaster epic has the one thing all disaster movies have been missing for so many years…SUPERMAN…ok, it’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but that’s pretty close.
San Andreas follows muscular helicopter rescue pilot Ray (Dwayne Johnson). On top of rappelling from helicopters and saving lives, Ray is dealing with a divorce from his wife (Carla Gugino), one daughter (Alexandra Daddario) going to college and the loss of his other daughter in a white water rafting accident. Thankfully there’s something to take his mind off of it; a cataclysmic earthquake all along the San Andreas fault line. Ray must make his way through the rubble with his estranged wife to find their daughter.
San Andreas is pretty much what it looks and sounds like; an action-hero running through impossible situations to get from point A to point B. It’s simple, it’s stupid and (thankfully) it’s totally harmless. Of course, the entire earthquake (or earthquakes, as it’s multiple in the movie) is probably totally impossible and absolutely over-the-top. For instance, Johnson and Gugino are using a center-console inflatable boat to get to the other side of San Francisco, but of course they have to get over a giant tsunami (SPOILER ALERT, they make it because one of them has his name on the movie poster). No matter how much science-talk the “experts” give out to explain the events (this time the “experts” are led by Paul Giamatti), everything going on is so unbelievable that the guys from Mythbusters would be laughing. There’s also the scumbag who gets his comeuppance by the disaster (this time it’s Ioan Gruffudd as Gugino’s new boyfriend) and the random love interest for the attractive daughter (this time it’s Hugo Johnstone-Burt as the nervous British guy who saves Daddario). There are so many modern cliches and ridiculous natural disasters popping up, one would think this is a Roland Emmerich movie.
The problem with a lot of disaster movies is that Hollywood places a bland-looking everyman in the lead role so that the audience can connect with him, like Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow, John Cusack in 2012 or…whoever it was in Into the Storm. But here’s the thing, if the events in a disaster movie aren’t realistic enough to relate to, what’s the point of relating to the main character? If the movie is going to be big and ridiculous, have it star a big and ridiculous human being. Make no mistake, Dwayne Johnson is big, ridiculous and freaking awesome. He’s the best part of San Andreas as he poses his muscles in front of collapsing buildings and triumphantly leads people to safety. He even makes a sex pun after parachuting into the AT&T Park and it’s ACTUALLY FUNNY! Michael Bay has been trying to do this right for years, and Dwayne Johnson gets it right. That’s got to be some kind of witchcraft. The funny thing is, Johnson has only just started to get solo lead roles in summer action movies. He’s been a supporting player in The Other Guys, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and the recent Fast & Furious films, but only since last year’s Hercules has Johnson been the leader of a summer blockbuster. With his performance in San Andreas, he deserves a whole lot more.
So is San Andreas good or bad? To be honest, I’d say it was…..fine. Nothing to rush to the theaters for but nothing god awful. It’s a run of the mill disaster movie that’s best enjoyed with your brain turned off and your mouth full of popcorn. If anything, San Andreas is a reminder that Dwayne Johnson can handle summer movies on his own and should be given a shot with a real director or at least some more exciting action. Despite all the quakes, the destruction and the family bonding, San Andreas is nothing more than Dwayne Johnson’s demo reel. Somebody call him up!
Final Verdict: 2.5 out of 4 stars