San Andreas: Latest Entrant into the Disaster Porn-Family Therapy Genre

San Andreas - IMDBAstoundingly not directed by Roland Emmerich (by director Brad Peyton instead), Hollywood’s latest disaster porn entry, San Andreas, is a minor improvement on other such catastrophe clones. While still a strict servant to the absurd, at least it’s opening half is exhilarating enough to help audiences coast through the latter.

Premise: San Andreas fault line activates destroying cities, killing millions: Result: Healthy serving of disaster porn mixed with preposterously timed family therapy time and sprinkling of superfluous patriotism – meh.

The film opens with a rock-slide-car-over-cliff rescue sequence that offers breath-catching thrills and cringe-inducing catch phrases: both directly foreshadowing the remaining 140+ minutes. Here the plot lines spew forth like a feisty hydra, slithering sinuously on screen.

First, there is the straight-forward San Andreas plotline where wonton devastation stuns California/Nevada but specifically LA and San Francisco. It is terrifying to watch how these cities come apart like a pile of dry leaves – the typical disaster-porn experience where humans and places are just wiped off the map like finger paint.

It helps that the context of the devastation isn’t global or something that defies human imagination – like 2012 for instance where the underlying reason was absurd. Here we have an active fault line where devastation is very possible – in fact, why it hasn’t already happened is equally perplexing.

Thank goodness for Cal Tech specialists, of course, who happen to be studying the very prediction of Earthquakes (you remember Twister right- yup basically like that except with magnetic fields or something). Here we have the scientist, Lawrence (Paul Giamatti), who first hand experiences the trauma in a terrifying Hoover Damn catastrophe as well as the sexy reporter Serena (Archie Panjabi) who happens to be in all the right places at the right time. And the sexy Cal Tech students (Alec Utgoff, Marissa Neitling, Julian Shaw, etc.) who are smart and sexy – liberties were taken here we are sure.

Then there are countless other plotlines that basically revolve around a harrowing search-and-rescue mission. There is Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who not only must overcome a lifetime with the name Blake, but who also is trapped in San Francisco where the ground is trying to eat her, buildings are trying to crush her and tsunamis are trying to drown her (there is a tsunami despite it making no scientific sense – apparently they were seconds from alien attack but held back – thanks restraint!)

She isn’t alone thankfully because there is sexy almost-intern Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) who is not only sexy and smart but also British; and when we tire of staring or listening there’s always adorable little brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) who plays the role of sensible “other person” and/or adorable pet (so versatile!!)

Honestly surprised he didn't make a cameo.

Honestly surprised he didn’t make a cameo.

To the rescue is Dad slash super-EMT (Dwayne Johnson) and Mom (Carla Gugino) who take every form of transportation possible to find their daughter (helicopter, plane, boat…surprising that horse-and-buggy whip and catapult didn’t make the cut – again…restraint). Fortunately the journey affords them both ample opportunity for completely inappropriate family therapy time, proving once again that all it takes to make a tough American male reveal his feelings is a cataclysmic event of epic proportions that murders millions of people.

The acting in this film is directly proportional to the script. At the outset it is fine, serviceable and works to move the plot along. By the end it is a grave yard of failed catch phrases and nonsensical deliberations. It doesn’t help at all when the dialogue simply devolves into excessive Patriotism for no apparent reason.

San Andreas, has some fun moments and isn’t s complete embarrassment to its sub-genre. But like any disaster porn flick, it climaxes too quickly and then refuses to leave, holding you in a paradoxically sweaty yet frigid vice grip while the snores erupt continuously. Ultimately you will regret it in the morning.

Rating: 5 – A luke-warm Pinot Grigio

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