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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.