Friday, May 29, 2015

The Day the Earth Broke

It must be nice to be The Rock.

I say this with sincerity and admiration since the somewhat-anticipated release of the summer disaster flick San Andreas this weekend makes it 100 percent clear that theres a cadre of Hollywood executives that thinks so highly of the former wrestler’s acting alter ego, Dwayne Johnson, that they went and built an entire tentpole about a massive earthquake leveling California and are now selling it on the strength of...his mug (check out the movies poster).

Guess The Big One ain’t a match for The Rock....

And that, my friends, is some star power, which is exactly what a popcorn movie like this one needs to work, even when it sorta doesn’t.

Following the huge-as-him success of the not-his Furious Seven, Johnson toplines the blockbuster du jour as Ray Gaines, an L.A. Fire Department rescue-chopper pilot who has never encountered a dire situation he couldn’t get out of or make better for everyone else involved. Except for that one time he couldn’t save his own daughter, an incident that cost him his marriage to Carla Gugino’s Emma – don’t worry, they are in good terms, albeit separated, and their spare, an impossibly big-eyed stunner played by Alexandra Daddario (HBO’s True Detective), loves ’em both – and left him with nothing but his work and his manly, quiet guilt.

On the day of the event in question Ray is out flying the friendly L.A. skies when a series of quakes starts tearing into the West Coast, from the outskirts of Vegas through Tinseltown and Bakersfield and finishing up in my new home, San Francisco. The City by the Bay, it must be noted, dahlings, is having a plum 2015, with key roles in The Age of Adaline, San Andreas, and the upcoming Ant-Man. Good for her! Except, you know, not good for her (she gets it hard in this one).

But I digress.

Soon, everyone is listening to the warnings of a Caltech seismologist, the movie’s stock serious man played by stock serious actor Paul Giamatti, who has cracked a way to predict a quake by precious seconds. When, with an invaluable assist from Archie Panjabi’s (TV’s The Good Wife) TV journalist-character, Giamatti’s know-all deus ex machinas a warning to the world alerting that everyone in the Bay Area must get out of dodge and especially out of the much-more-cinematic SF, Ray and Emma go against the grain, for they just gotta save their daughter, Daddario’s Blake.

If only they can find her and get to her, of course.

Which, duh, they do.

It’s not like, on top of confining Johnson – one of the most kick-ass action stars working today – to a friggin’ moving vehicle of some sort for most of the movie, screenwriter Carlton Cuse (A&E’s Bates Motel, TV’s Lost) is also gonna have him lose another kid. Like, no. While it is quote-unquote cool to see s--- break (in this case, the Hoover Dam and, uh, California), it is indisputable that this project had one big fault: its main villain, the ultimate earthquake, isn’t punchable, and that is why the movie doesn’t feature, say, Zac Efron in the lead, racing to save his gf or som’in’.

Look, San Andreas is not an Oscar movie.

Heck, it’s barely a movie an MTV Movie Awards-worthy one.

It is a non-stop special effect shamelessly designed to make you buy some tickets and escape the real world and its quite-real disaster possibilities and into a fantasy that is much too ridikolous to be scary. Just ask Ioan Gruffudd; the way his stepfather figure is handled and dispatched is beyond-silly (and thanks for the bitchy cameo, Kylie!).

The only one, in this market, who could do that is Johnson – he may not be able to knock out a quake with his bare hands, but he will kick its butt in a matter of speaking and save the day, alright. So good for him.

My Rating **1/2

Photo: Warner Bros.

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