‘San Andreas’ is not all it is cracked up to be

Two Stars

Jason Wiese | Culture Editor
Published May 29, 2015; 9 a.m.

Every once in a while, often in the summer, a film is released, possessing the power to change audiences’ perspective and make them appreciate bad cinema. “San Andreas,” a natural disaster PSA disguised a B-movie starring Dwayne Johnson, is a fantastic example of bad filmmaking. In fact, it is so hilariously stupid that I hated it a lot less than I probably should have.

The premise is simple enough. Johnson stars as Ray Gaines, a hulking rescue chopper pilot who must team-up with his estranged wife, Emma, (Carla Gugino) to search for their college-age daughter, Blake, (Alexandra Daddario) after the titular fault line threatens to tear through the San Francisco Bay area like paper. If it sounds like you have seen this movie before, you probably have.

The film is essentially a reference guide of disaster movie clichés from beginning to end. You name it, it has it. In fact, I could list them all right here, but, honestly, I am choosing not to spoil them in this review for two reasons: you will already see them coming anyway and the film is most fun when you can point them out for yourself.

This film also sparks an internal debate: is this film really trying to take itself seriously or is it actually an elaborate spoof? If so, I get the feeling that the mostly talented ensemble cast is in on the joke. Johnson seems to be aware that he is almost too perfect for his role to be taken seriously. He utters every line with the wit of a cheesy ‘80s action hero. Every one of his heroic acts in the film inspires disbelief in the characters he saves from the earthquake, which makes no sense to me because of course you would feel safe around a man with biceps larger than your own head. The great Paul Giamatti is also worth mentioning as a likable seismologist, who I believe should be credited as the real hero of the film. I just wish it was easier to understand his scientific jargon.

By the end of the film, I could not help but wonder if I should applaud director Brad Peyton and writer Carlton Cuse for making such an irresistibly funny spoof or if I should scold them for expecting moviegoers to take this film seriously as an insult to their intelligence. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed poking fun at the innumerable flaws littered throughout “San Andreas” that I am actually recommending it purely with the intent of having a good laugh. I am not, by any means, calling it a good film, but disaster movies are nearly impossible to take seriously anymore and it is nice to have something out to help us reflect on that with.

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