Tuesday, June 2, 2015

[Review] San Andreas

You could throw most obstacles at Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and he'll handily destroy them in front of your face. So, you might as well toss an entire record-breaking earthquake at him. I suppose San Andreas could fall into the 'so bad it's good' category, but that's too simple. San Andreas fully accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do--no more and no less--and that is being a high stakes CGI slaughter of action-packed crisis, as well as a showcase for The Rock's awesomeness.

Ray (The Rock) is a mountainous LA firefighter and pilot, making the world a safer place one mission at a time. But with tectonic shifts rumbling up & down the West Coast, things are about to get crazier. Meanwhile, a seismologist played by Paul Giamatti is tracking the inevitable destruction. It's pretty clear that Giamatti was brought here specifically for his yelling voice ("GET BEHIND THE BARRIERS!") The film attempts to inject some personal drama and possible metaphors in Ray's life: The divorce between him and his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) has been finalized, their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) is caught between the split, and there's a new jerky boyfriend in the picture... But honestly, ain't nobody got time for that.

There's a toppled skyscraper's-worth of cliches and and tropes embodying the whole film, but the thing is--as cheesy and cringeworthy as they're delivered here, they feel right. The dialogue is so stock-ish that it seems like it was plucked directly from other films, or maybe even the cutting room of other films. Either way, it makes for some laughs whether intentional or not. The narrative follows a by-the-book formula. In fact, the first sequence involves The Rock saving a teenage girl after her vehicle falls into a crevice, and the only shocking thing about is that there wasn't also a cat in the car. But because of this tried & true formula, all the beats land with precision, and the climax and resolution are built for the utmost effectiveness. So, even though you know exactly what's coming all the time, there's no room for muddle, confusion, or soiled expectations and disappointments. As messy as Southern California is here, the superficial aspect of the screenplay is a well-oiled machine. And anyone complaining about the legitimacy of the science needs to get a sense of humor and just accept the suspension of disbelief... or get a life.

The Rock has become a true action star, and it goes beyond his excellent knack for ass-kicking. There's a sophistication to his beatdowns. And aside from being an astonishing physical specimen, we have to acknowledge that he looks a little more exotic than most action staples populating the screen. Even when he has to deliver terrible dialogue, his full commitment and charisma makes it not so insufferable. A lot of action stars do their work with a stone face, but The Rock, on the other hand, brings some welcomed emotion. His facial expressions are severely underrated. And he's demonstrated that he's capable of displaying some heart. The stone face works great for some actors, but in The Rock's case, his charm actually makes him huggable, even though he might accidentally send you to the emergency room after that hug. He's just impossible not to root for.

A trailer could release, and there could be a 95% chance that the movie itself will be awful, but if The Rock is in it, it's practically still a must-see. If that isn't a true action star, I don't know what is. Can you think of many examples regarding current actors (no matter what genre, actually) that will provoke you to see an awful movie just because "so and so" is in it? I try hard, but I can't think of many. And people who used to be in that category have fallen out of it lately.

Even though San Andreas is as generic as a disaster movie can get, it really doesn't have anything to live up to. It stands on its own. This isn't a sequel. It isn't a remake or a reboot. And it isn't based on a book (or a theme park). So with all things considered, in some ways San Andreas will probably go down as one of the summer's most satisfying *Blockbusters.*


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