It must have been a no-brainer for casting crews in Brad Peyton`s 2015 disaster #Film, San Andreas, to hitch Dwayne Johnson to their rather rickety cinematic wagon. The film`s star, surprisingly bearable in previous films such as Faster, Snitch, and the latest “Furious” movies, clearly shows his limits as a wrestler-turned-semi-believable-actor in what was supposed to be this year`s summer blockbuster natural disaster flick—the 100-year-overdue splitting of the San Andreas fault. In all fairness, however, full blame shouldn`t be cast upon Johnson as it was the movie`s direction and story that really fell apart.

The film centers around Los Angeles Fire Department Air Rescue pilot Raymond “Ray J” Gaines, his soon-to-be ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino), and his twenty-something daughter (Alexandra Daddario), whose only real interesting quality as a character is her name, Blake, which sounds more like a cocky high school quarterback than a beautiful Californian.

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There is also, as in most marital issues on-screen these days, a stereotypical, hotshot, real estate tycoon new boyfriend in the mix, Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd), recognizable as Mr. Fantastic/Elastic Man from the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four movies, a casting decision made no doubt since those two movies brilliantly showcased what a disaster a movie can be. This is most certainly the film`s most devastating plot-related issue as the story focuses on this particular family, and not so much else. Despite the fact the whole western seaboard is being torn apart and buildings are collapsing here and there like paper-cup towers, we follow very closely, almost claustrophobically along with Gaines and his wife as they re-kindle their broken marriage in story A, while Blake and her new love interest Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), a typically nervous Brit she knows all of ten minutes before he is out risking his life and that of his “cooler” younger brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) to save, in story B.

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There are few scenes that illustrate how a natural disaster of this magnitude can affect society as a whole, and more underscoring the predictable outcome that stories A and B will unite one way or another. Clearly, when the San Andreas Fault one day does split, only the Rock is important.

There is, however, a somewhat redeeming factor in this catastrophe, and it comes in the form of yet another stereotypical character, the scientist who knows the disaster is coming right before it actually does and can almost countdown the minutes to each new and terrible event, Caltech seismologist Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti). Although his presence on-screen is both cliché and limited, Giamatti`s ability to act, although not entirely inspired in this film, does provide a much needed breath of reality. In fact, the scenes leading up to the actual earthquake(s), like in most other disaster-related stories, provides most of the suspense the rest of the film drowns out in explosions or self-sacrificing toddler-tosses (at least in this movie the tossee is of legal age to gamble).

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The day a disaster film is considered worthy of more than a few headshakes and a chuckle of disbelief is well into the future, if ever. Yet, when a movie such as this, with poor direction, half-realized acting, and graphics that seem like they were crafted in a high school media-arts room and make an oxymoron of the term “special-effects” is spewed pink in the middle out of the Hollywood kitchen, all a person has to do is echo the final, cringe-inducing last lines of the film uttered by hero-Gaines after being asked what to do next: “Rebuild”.

 

 

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