By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I have such mixed feelings when it comes to disaster movies.  I enjoyed the ones that premiered during the 1970s (Earthquake, Airport, The Poseidon Adventure) but then again, I was a kid when I first watched them. Actually, some of these movies are quite good, In addition to believable special effects and well-executed action sequences, this type of film needs interesting or fun characters, descent backstories and adequate character development.  The latest modern entry into this genre, the Brad Peyton-helmed San Andreas does have two of those necessary elements, but falls short when it comes to the rest.

Dwayne Johnson stars as Chief Ray Gaines, a hard-working L.A. rescue helicopter pilot planning to spend some quality time with his beloved daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), who will be going off to college in the coming months.  His plans get derailed when a series of earthquakes begin rocking the state and puts people’s lives in jeopardy.  With her father occupied, Blake decides to spend the time with her mother Emma’s (Carla Gugino) new boyfriend Daniel Riddick (Ion Gruffudd) in San Francisco.  As the earthquakes worsen, causing even more catastrophic damage to multiple cities, Daniel and his ex-wife decide to seek out Daniel and Blake before they are seriously hurt or killed.

Written by Carlton Cuse, Andre Fabrizio, and Jeremy Passmore, San Andreas does deliver impressive effects and extraordinary and thrilling earthquake sequences.  The film does have some likable characters, but their backstories and drama gets old and tiresome after awhile.  These subplots soon become crystal clear and predictable.  In addition, to these all-too-obvious moments, the film features a corny, contrived, and melodramatic climax which is so poorly executed, I groaned to myself in agony.  Had that sequence been toned down considerably, I probably would consider giving this movie a slightly higher rating.  Despite these issues, I did manage to have fun during intense earthquake scenes.

I do have to hand it to the special effects,  and technical crew, particularly editor Bill Ducsay, who did excellent work with these scenes.  Bill Peyton also deserves a nod for these moments as well.  Even though the characters are not all that exceptional or dynamic, the cast members do have the talent and charisma to make them likable enough to elicit empathy.

Dwayne Johnson has yet to disappoint me with one of his performances.  In even his not-s0-great movies, he is a shining star.  He certainly stands out from other action stars because of  his naturally charming personality.  The lovely Carla Gugino is always a welcome addition to any movie that needs a sexy, but strong-willed character.  Her work in this movie is no exception.  I just wished they had given her a more interesting character to portray.  The also lovely Alexandra Daddario has the gorgeous looks to believably portray Gugino’s daughter, but also the personality and strength to be The Rock’s daughter as well.

The film also stars Paul Giamatti who delivers a solid and credible performance as earthquake expert named Lawrence.  He simply has a natural talent for pulling off just about any character.  From Australia, Hugo Johnstone-Burt offers a sweet and lovable role as Ben, and from Ireland, Art Parkinson portrays Ben’s younger brother Ollie.  These two amiable actors offer more genuine heart to the film.

Because the movie does have enough going for it to make it a fun and watchable movie in theaters, I will recommend it as a descent matinee recommendation.  The visuals and sound demand to be experienced in a theatrical setting.  I might even go so far as to recommend it for D-Box (if available).  I would strongly discourage people from spending evening prices to see San Andreas, though.  The earthquakes in the movie offer excitement, but the backstory drama left me flat.


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