Release date: May 29, 2015
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Written by: Carlton Cuse
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Cugino, Alexandra Daddario, and Ion Gruffudd
You know what they say: Keep it simple, stupid. “San Andreas” is way ahead of you. A throwback to old school disaster films, the film relies on stunning visuals and breath taking action to make up for it’s lack of originality. Simple. Stupid. But fun.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the obvious choice to go toe to tow with any natural disaster, plays a fire and rescue hero. He’s a bad ass, a pretty good dude, and he gets sympathy points because he wants to spend more time with his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), who is on her way off to college; and as a double whammy, he’s getting divorced from Carla Cugino, who is moving in with another dude (Ian Guffudd), who clearly isn’t good enough for her.
That’s pretty much the set up. Otherwise, it doesn’t take long to get to the action. After a daring rescue to show just how awesome The Rock is, we cut to the scientists, led by Paul Giamatti, who have figured out how to predict earth quakes. Wouldn’t you know it? They figure it out just minutes before the San Andreas fault line goes off, triggering multiple earthquakes from Nevada and the Hoover Dam, to Los Angeles, all the way up to San Francisco.
Once the ground starts shaking, it’s The Rock racing against time in helicopters, single engine planes, and motor boats to save his wife and daughter. The action is fun, fierce, and exhausting. It’s every bit as ridiculous and playful as it needs to be, without ever trying too hard to be something it’s not. As a bonus, it doubles as a safety guide for disastrous situations, as Paul Giamatti and The Rock stop and then to run through some basic earthquake survival tips.
The simplicity of the film’s storytelling is a throw back to Irwin Allen’s disaster films of the 70’s. The characters are typical but all played by actors who have good on screen presence, making it easy to root for their survival. Of course, there are times when the film tries to develop characters that we all knew going in were going to be paper thin. The second act hits a snag on a wasted sub plot involving a child that The Rock lost during a family vacation rafting accident. It’s really unnecessary motivation for him to be driven to rescue Blake. It takes away from the characters we do meet and could have easily been spent helping to add some suspense to the predicable final act.
But, if you’re sitting down to watch a disaster movie like “San Andreas”, you already know the plot and characters are going to be paper thin. You’re here for action and director Brad Peyton delivers. Once the action kicks in, it’s a hell of a ride. The visuals are some of the best that have ever been seen in a blockbuster disaster flick, although the 3D is a little jarring. The constant shaking from the quaking doesn’t help stabilize the added effect very well.
“San Andreas” is as engaging and thrilling as it is predictable and cliche. But if you’re looking for a fun disaster movie that, it hits more sweet spots than sour notes.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language
Running time: 1 hour 54 minutes