Release date: 28 May 2015
Running time: 114 min
Director: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Ioan Gruffard, Hugo Johnstone-Burt
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson re-enacts Planes Trains and Automobiles by way of Roland Emmerich’s 2012 in this utterly preposterous tale of record-breaking earthquakes, tsunamis and family squabbles. This sort of fare is rarely life-changing, but with the appeal mostly centred around its much-loved star, San Andreas should be an ample slice of entertaining, popcorn nonsense. As it stands, it’s mainly just nonsense.
Ray (Johnson) is the head of a helicopter rescue team who has recently separated from his wife Emma (Gugino), while his daughter Blake (Daddario) is off to college soon. Neither he nor Blake are huge fans of Emma’s new boyfriend Daniel (Grufford), an incredibly wealthy architect who is immediately suspicious because he is both rich and not The Rock. Elsewhere, Paul Giamatti is researching earthquake-y type stuff at a California university, and a young British hopeful (Johnstone-Burt) is trying for a job at Daniel’s firm with his younger brother inexplicably in tow. Cue Earthquakes, carnage and cacophony of shoddy CGI.
The disaster flick is enjoying a comeback of sorts after last year’s Into the Storm, which despite significant advances in CGI still managed to be both less entertaining and visually impressive than 1996’s Twister. The problem with San Andreas is largely the same: everything it has to offer has been done before, and done better. To say it’s predictable is an understatement; the way it lurches from one lazy cliche to the next is almost comical at first, but quickly becomes a drudgery of uninspiring nonsense. Even Big Dwayne himself -whose natural charisma and winning smile nearly always carry him – despite the material – barely makes an impression against the overwhelming din. He spends roughly 80% of his screen-time manning vehicles (from a helicopter, to a truck, to a plane and then a speedboat) and when he has any downtime he spends it moping about his family. Flashes of his usual self are criminally few and far between.
Apart from anything else, and probably coming as a surprise to no-one, San Andreas is phenomenally stupid. This is the kind of movie which has an expository scene involving a university lecture which is more akin question and answer session for six year olds. ‘Could an earthquake ever happen here?’ a student asks after hearing that they can be a bit dangerous, a clearly ineffectual macbook on her lap. It’s the sort of film where countless people die but no-one seems to care; they’re all too impressed at the sight of The Rock piloting a speedboat over a 100+ ft tsunami whilst swerving to avoid an enormous tanker. All this silliness raises the occasional chuckle, but for the most past San Andreas is devoid of any genuine humour or thrills. Might as well go see Mad Max again instead.