‘San Andreas’: Its faults are not its stars
By Bob Bloom
“San Andreas” is a heartwarming drama about a fractured family brought together by the greatest catastrophe in the history of California.
Dwayne Johnson stars as the most heroic helicopter rescue pilot in the history of Los Angeles. He goes AWOL with a county chopper to rescue his estranged wife and daughter when disaster strikes and he is needed the most.
But, hey, what’s a few million lives here and there when you feel obliged to put your family first.
“San Andreas” plays as if the four screenwriters shopped at the disaster-movie supermarket, grabbing all the clichés they could from the clearance aisle and stuffing them in a cart.
To be fair, “San Andreas,” directed by Brad Peyton, is entertaining and dumb fun, especially if you enjoy seeing buildings collapse, inundated cities crumble and people being crushed, drowned and hurtled from great heights.
The plotting and dialogue are so familiar that, at times, you want to check your calendar to make sure you are not watching something from the 1970s.
The characters are all cardboard figures who serve one function and follow through on a linear course from beginning to end.
Johnson sticks out his jaw and chest, fixes a look of determination on his face and refuses to let 9.5 earthquakes from Los Angeles to San Francisco keep him from plucking his family from the jaws of death.
Carla Gugino is his estranged wife who, despite their separation, still loves her husband, while Alexandra Daddario is their plucky daughter whose survival skills keep her and a pair of newfound friends alive.
If you have to feel sorry for any actor, it is Paul Giamatti, who plays the scientist whose predictions about what is about to strike the Golden State come true in ways he never imagined.
He speaks in hushed, intense and urgent tones throughout, spouting trite and banal lines, warning people to flee, find higher ground and intoning the usual phrases of solace for those who lost their lives as well as to those struggling to survive.
One positive aspect of “San Andreas” is that the women characters, especially Daddario’s Blake, are competent people who are able to handle the dire situations in which they are thrown.
“San Andreas” keeps piling disaster upon disaster. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at the protagonists, who make hairbreadth escapes as if they were the main players in an old serial.
The use of 3-D is again a detriment, as it really adds nothing to the overall special effects.
“San Andreas” can be enjoyed for what it is; a big-budget popcorn movie meant solely to offer a summer thrill ride. It works best if you don’t take it seriously.
And when you see that big American flag unfurl at the finale, feel free to take offense and realize you’re being manipulated and exploited yet again.
It’s simply an additional, lazier cliché pulled from the shelf.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
1½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), intense action and disaster violence, language