Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tonight's Movie: San Andreas (2015)

Viewers looking for a very silly yet entirely entertaining summer "popcorn movie" need look no further than SAN ANDREAS (2015).

I don't see all that many "new" movies, but I was lured to SAN ANDREAS by my daughter's recent pithy review: "Terrible dialogue. Cheesy dialogue. Bad science. No logic. 4 stars."

That about captures the movie! It's a not-too-scary disaster movie for those of us who like the AIRPORT movies (especially AIRPORT '77!)...our family has a tradition of watching old disaster movies every New Year's Eve, and this one would fit right in.

SAN ANDREAS plays like THE PERILS OF PAULINE for the lead characters, but despite mass destruction, the movie is more like an amusement park thrill ride than anything terribly graphic or troubling. Some of the aforementioned cheesy dialogue helps lessen the fear factor as well; I've got to give Paul Giamatti props for apparently taking his character seriously, because I sure didn't!

One fine day two scientists from Caltech (Giamatti and Will Yun Lee) believe they have finally cracked the code which will enable the prediction of earthquakes. They journey to Hoover Dam to test out their theory and sure enough, a massive earthquake destroys the dam.

Despite the huge damage in Nevada, Lawrence (Giamatti) somehow immediately makes it back to Pasadena, minus his now-deceased colleague. Data starts coming in that a big one is about to hit L.A. -- and San Francisco is in for even worse.

Ray (Dwayne Johnson), who works for L.A. Fire and Rescue, is in a chopper on his way to help in Nevada when the Big One strikes L.A. He manages to pluck his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) off the top of a collapsing building in Downtown L.A., then they set off for San Francisco to rescue their college-aged daughter Blake (the beautiful Alexandra Daddario, who is probably a decade too old for her part).

Blake had hitched a plane ride to San Francisco with her mom's wealthy new boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd of HORATIO HORNBLOWER), who turns out not to be the man you want by your side when you're trapped in a car in a collapsing parking garage.

Blake is saved by Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his little brother Ollie (Art Parkinson), and they're off to find their way to Coit Tower to meet Blake's parents...only Coit Tower is surrounded by fire, so time for Plan B! And even Plan B goes down the tubes once a tsunami hits.

I lost track of the crises which hit Ray's family, which also include surviving falling down a few stories with a collapsing building, a helicopter crash, stealing a stolen truck, parachuting out of a plane (and landing in the middle of AT&T Park, of course!), riding a boat up the cresting wave of a tsunami...well, you get the idea!

Meanwhile back at Caltech, Lawrence the scientist has students in the media lab hack their way into network broadcasts so he and TV reporter Serena (Archie Punjabi of THE GOOD WIFE, in a thankless role) can warn California of the massive destruction which is not yet done unfolding. Caltech, incidentally, is remarkably unscathed by the quake!

Regular viewers know I don't like children in peril or overly violent movies, but every aspect of this movie clearly telegraphs it's a phony CGI universe; the film's effects are as fake as the wires one can glimpse in EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956). Honestly, SAN FRANCISCO (1936) is more realistic and dramatically compelling, despite the fact its special effects were created 80 years ago!

If I tried to list all the things in SAN ANDREAS that make no sense or are silly or raise questions, I'd never stop! I mean, as one example, is it realistic for a tsunami to wipe out a city and not have a single body float by? And a boat is somehow able to power through water clogged with massive debris without a single problem? Yet if the movie were at all realistic, it wouldn't be any fun -- especially for viewers in California!

I'll also say it's kind of interesting Ray, who demonstrates he's ordinarily a brave civil servant in an opening sequence, makes off with a city-owned chopper for his own private rescue mission, but then I guess, given the massive destruction, he figured it was every man for himself! At least he tells a few people in San Francisco the safest place to huddle during some shaking, but otherwise he's in it for his wife and daughter and no one else.

Meanwhile it's interesting that Lawrence and his students seems to be the only seismologists in California...where are Dr. Lucy Jones and Dr. Kate Hutton when you need them?

All my dissing of the movie doesn't convey how absolutely entertaining it is, right down to the final line ("We rebuild")...it's fun in large part just because of all the absurdity! I had a very good time, and I'd see it again.

SAN ANDREAS was directed by Brad Peyton and filmed by Steve Yedlin. It runs 114 minutes.

Parental Advisory: SAN ANDREAS is rated PG-13 for "intense disaster action and mayhem," as well as "brief strong language." Honestly, this is about as family-friendly a disaster movie as you're going to get these days. Graphic violence and language are kept to an absolute minimum -- there are lots of collapsing buildings but very little gore -- and there's a nice thread about the love of family running throughout the film.

Here's Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times: "SAN ANDREAS is chock-full of cliché characters, staggering coincidences and wild improbabilities...Yet films this preposterous can be engaging if you know what you're getting in for, especially if they have the advantage of Dwayne Johnson...in the starring role. An action hero with a rare kind of gravitas, Johnson has a stabilizing influence on all the silliness that surrounds him."

Meanwhile from The Guardian: "This spectacularly silly film about a monster Californian earthquake recalls the glory days of 1970s disaster films." Yep! Minus the all-star cast.

The trailer is on YouTube.


Blogger DKoren said...

Hee! Your review exactly matches what I felt when I saw it. This was a totally fun spectacular disaster movie that isn't remotely serious. I laughed all the way through it, but in a good way. I found it thoroughly entertaining and will enjoy watching it again. I thought it was fascinating how they managed to make it a very intimate movie (there's only the one family who you see in this movie)when the destruction is so wide scale. But I thought that worked to its advantage.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Will Yun Lee? I love that guy! Now I'm going to have to see "San Andreas". Orville Redenbacher, here I come.

3:16 PM  
Blogger mel said...

Thanks for your review. I think I'll watch it just for laughs.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Deb! It was great to hear from you, and I'm glad you experienced the movie the same way I did. A fun time.

Caftan Woman and Mel, I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Please let me know. :)

Best wishes,

8:47 AM  
Blogger mel said...

Now that I've seen it, I have to agree that it was fairly entertaining despite being totally ridiculous. I agree with your daughter's pithy review. I don't think I'd waste my time watching it again; I have too big a backlog of other, more worthwhile, movies yet to watch...

9:57 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Mel! Love that you checked it out and shared your opinion. Glad you found it pretty fun. :)

Though I'd watch it again I agree I"ve got a lot in line ahead of another viewing of this one LOL.

Best wishes,

10:15 PM  

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