Review: ‘San Andreas’ (Tectonic Plates Vs. The Rock)

Rescue dad to the rescue.

Investigating a way to better predict earthquakes, a CalTech professor (Paul Giamatti) finds out his new technology works very well when the Hoover Dam collapses. Unfortunately, his new data is predicting a massive earthquake along the San Andreas fault with almost no time to warn anyone. Helicopter rescue pilot Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is on his way to Las Vegas to assist when a call from his wife (Carla Gugino) diverts him back to Los Angeles. With downtown LA shaking apart, Ray’s daughter (Alexandra Daddario) has no idea that the biggest quake is heading her way: San Francisco.

A by-the-numbers broken family mended by surviving a disaster plot, this bare-bones story works as a framework for lots of cool special effects – seriously, what else were you expecting? To its credit, San Andreas dispenses with ridiculous complications like those employed in 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. There’s even a bit of the old “trying but failing to save everyone survivor’s guilt trope” here, but just enough to move things along. Yes…yes, it looks like Dwayne Johnson is really ACTING in a few of those sad scenes reconciling with Carla Gugino – hey, it’s Carla Gugino: step it up!

Could Alexandra Daddario’s blue eyes get any bigger? Probably not, but it’s easy to see why Johnson, Gugino, and Daddario were cast as the castaway family; they look physically capable of rescuing themselves and one another. Ever notice how you almost never see heavy-set people doing any saving or actually being rescued? It’s almost as if they have too little chance to make it, and besides, we really have to save Alexandra Daddario so that her offspring can beautify the earth. Paul Giamatti chews the scenery as the defacto voice of dire reason, never interacting with the Cali Family Robinson so much as appearing to say dramatic things like “They’ll feel it on the East Coast!” and “It’s the perfect storm!” Ioan Gruffudd is less than Mr. Fantastic this time around because there has to be a guy hell-bent to save his own skin at the cost of everyone else. Hey, doomed guy is important, dang it!

Let’s set aside the fact that the defacto leader of a well-known rescue team not only fails to show up at his destination but uses equipment he doesn’t own to rescue his own family; then again, since nobody called his helicopter’s sat phone other than his wife and daughter: priorities, man! It was obviously because there were enough other people to do his job or there was nobody left to call. We’ll also understand if there was a distinct lack of bodies floating through the streets of San Francisco in order to keep a PG-13 rating, but with a disaster of this proportion, there’d have to be, folks. And maybe it’s a bit of a stretch that all the selfish/annoying characters get their comeuppances, but hey, why not? This is a pure popcorn flick sanitized for family viewing: enjoy and forget.

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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