B-Movie in AAA Clothing – San Andreas Reviewed

9 Jun
Not a GTA Sequel...

Not a GTA Sequel…

It’s rare that I get to see a movie suitable for this blog in the theater. Sure, every once in a while there will be a “special” screening (seeing Sharknado in the theater was pretty awesome), but for the most part today’s b-movie goes straight to video. And San Andreas is a b-movie.

It’s just one with a gigantic budget. Which I gotta say, in this case makes the experience all the better for it.

In San Andreas, the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) plays an ex-military rescue chopper pilot who struggles to reunite with his family when the San Andreas fault tears California a new one.

Seriously, this movie treats disaster movie tropes like a checklist. Tough main character who’s hurting inside? Check. Estranged wife who still loves him, but had to leave because his hurt was too inside? Check. An attractive young daughter who mainly serves to provide a side plot where she goes from one bad predicament to another? 24 checks.

A scientist character introduced via an obligatory, expository lecture about what’s to come? The early disaster that signals the main event to come? Check, aaaand check.

Honestly, if you replaced the Rock with Dean Cain and took away 90% of the budget, you’d have a Saturday night on SyFy. I kept waiting for them to figure out a way to drop a nuke into the fault to stop the quakes – with the Rock as the only pilot crazy and heroic enough to fly it in.

That said, this movie doesn’t star Dean Cain, Ian Ziering, or a Baldwin. And the added budget does indeed make a huge difference. The story may be rote, but when you can see San Francisco torn apart in such loving detail, you won’t care.

Science takes a holiday, which is normal – and needed, given the scale of the destruction. I’m still not sure how a strike-slip fault over land could create the massive tsunami in the film, but whatever – the effects were awesome. And that’s kind of the point. This is a movie that will lose something when you see it at home – unless you have a 4K projector and an absurd setup.

This might work for San Andreas…

Across the board, the acting is better than most in the genre – another hallmark of the bigger budget. The Rock is, well, solid. Carla Gugino does what she can with what amounts to the “main character’s significant other” role. Paul Giamatti looks appropriately appalled throughout. This could be from his character’s growing realization of the disaster to come, or his realization of the kind of movie he’s signed on for. But either way, it works.

The only real let down is Ioan Gruffudd – who I normally really like. He is totally slumming it here and seems miscast. His character is supposed to be the “token bad guy”, but Ioan (even, distractingly, sans accent) is too likable to establish that at the start of the movie. When he does start to act like prick, it feels almost out of character.

San Andreas is big, dumb fun. It knows its roots and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. If you’re looking for a decent excuse to spend two hours munching popcorn in a theater, you could do far , far worse.

7.5 aftershocks out of 10

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