When I checked the movie listings yesterday, there were three possibilities. I threw out Poltergeist pretty quickly because horror reboots rarely live up to the originals, there’s absolutely no need to remake Poltergeist, and so far the best reason I’ve seen for rebooting Tobe Hooper movies is Jessica Biel’s tank top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That left Tomorrowland and San Andreas. Tomorrowland has George Clooney and some kind of secret retro-future city and looks like it might be the kind of movie that Disney does really well. San Andreas (despite not being the Grand Theft Auto movie I was kind of hoping for when I first heard about it) has The Rock doing The Rock things while California slides into the ocean (like the mystics and statistics say it will). So obviously I went to see San Andreas.
If you’ve seen the trailers for San Andreas, you pretty much know what you’re getting. Even though it’s not a Roland Emmerich movie, it follows the Roland Emmerich playbook almost exactly. The only real difference is that only one nuclear family that was about to break up gets reunited by the shit blowing up around them. Emmerich usually makes it half a dozen or so, and you don’t really care about most of them. So the makers of San Andreas actually improved upon the formula.
The Rock plays some guy who probably has a name who’s a rescue helicopter pilot and (the very first scene is there to ensure us) a Big Damn Hero(™). Before becoming a rescue pilot in the U.S., he was a rescue pilot in Iraq. Or maybe Afghanistan. I don’t really remember. Someplace hot and sandy. The point is that he was rescuing people over there so we wouldn’t have to rescue people over here. Because that’s the kind of dude Guy Played By The Rock is.
Next we meet Paul Giamatti, who’s a seismologist. He and his partner think they’ve found a way to predict earthquakes using magnetic pulses or something like that. Definitely a thing the Insane Clown Posse would have trouble grasping. Anyway, they’re testing it out when a BIG GODDAMN EARTHQUAKE destroys Hoover Dam and kills the partner guy. So now Giamatti knows that shit is going to go down, because magnets. For the rest of the movie, he issues dire warnings, reminds the audience that it’s a really big earthquake (in case they missed all the special effects somehow), hides under desks, and basically just Giamattis a lot. The whole subplot is almost completely unnecessary, but at least it doesn’t take up too much time. And hey, Giamatti.
Meanwhile, things aren’t going great for Guy Played By The Rock. He’s got to go do rescuing in Nevada, which means he has to cancel his plans to take his daughter (Woody’s Hot Mistress From True Detective) to college. Even worse, when he goes to drop off her stuff he finds out that his wife (Marv’s Hot Parole Officer From Sin City) is about to move in with Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four Movies (Ioan Gruffudd). This seems like a bad trade, but Reed Richards is rich and there’s a dead kid and it’s a whole thing. Anyway, Mr. Fantastic has to go to San Francisco anyway, and since he’s got a private jet (because of course he does) he offers to take Guy Played By The Rock’s hot daughter to school afterwards.
The next day, Guy Played By The Rock calls his wife to apologize for acting like he was The Rock and just got dumped for The Guy Who Played Reed Richards when he found out that she was moving in with Reed Richards. It’s a good thing he calls when he does, too, because she’s at the top of a skyscraper and it starts earthquaking like crazy while they’re talking, allowing him to save her in a highly improbably rescue, even for a movie like this. Meanwhile in San Francisco, Hot Daughter gets trapped in Reed Richards’ limo in an underground parking garage. Reed Richards runs away like a little weasel because his character came directly from Central Casting. She manages to call Guy Played By The Rock right before the phones go out, so he and Silk Spectre head towards San Francisco because they don’t want two dead kids.
Before Guy Played By The Rock and his wife can get there, Hot Daughter is rescued through the power of ENGINEERING by a British guy she met earlier, and the two of them, along with his little brother, start wandering around to find a place where Guy Played by the Rock can find them when he gets there. Unfortunately, Guy Played By The Rock’s helicopter goes down in Bakersfield, which has already turned into a lawless, post-apocalyptic wasteland (which, as I understand it, really isn’t that big a transformation). Due to the whole “earth tearing itself apart” thing, getting to San Francisco takes a while and requires several felonies. Then there’s more Big Damn Action (™) and a tsunami and all kinds of highly improbable stuff. Eventually everyone’s reunited in a FEMA camp. In the final scene they look out over the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge as the Stars and Stripes waves in the breeze. Because America.
Bottom Line: Slight improvement on the Roland Emmerich fx blockbuster disaster movie formula. With The Rock. And even more boldly, unapologetically dumb and over-the-top. It’s mindless escapist nonsense with very little redeeming value. In other words, I enjoyed the Hell out of it, but kind of feel like that makes me Part of the Problem. Here’s hoping that seeing Slow West this weekend will rebalance my movie karma.
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