It’s a movie that gives us a lot of jaw-dropping, impressive special effects and, for the most part, it succeeds gloriously at providing a series of spectacular set pieces that leave us either laughing or surprisingly thrilled and amazed. No more, no less.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Ray Gaines, a divorced rescue pilot in California who’s planning a weekend getaway with his daughter when disaster literally strikes. A massive earthquake tears through the state — more specifically, the San Andreas fault — and is expected to be the biggest quake in history. Ooh, you know they’re serious when they say it’s the biggest quake in history.
Like I said before, the movie is loaded with sensationally constructed sequences. Some of them are just so plain loony and off-the-wall that we have no choice but to turn our brains off. One scene involves Ray riding a boat toward a tsunami and literally riding it like a surfer.
This movie recycles just about every single durable movie cliché in the book: The main character is determined to find his daughter in the midst of the chaos; the ex-wife (Carla Gugino) reunites with him and discusses where the marriage went wrong; the professor (Paul Giamatti) tells all of California to act now before it’s too late; etc.
“San Andreas” had the potential to be a disaster film that could’ve been dumbed down to nothing but special effects and let them take over. Instead, the film gets credit for slowing down the action in some scenes and allowing Johnson and the other actors to do something with their characters. Not to mention, when the disaster sequences do ramp up, it’s hard not to think of images of 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina.
I’m recommending “San Andreas” for two very big reasons: Johnson and the special effects. What else does it have to offer? Johnson makes another compelling turn as an action hero and the sights are nothing short of spectacular, but that’s probably putting it mildly.
“San Andreas” is in the great tradition of summer popcorn entertainment. It does exactly what it’s made to do.
(Rated PG-13 for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language.)
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.