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Family Movie Review: Into the Storm (PG-13)

Weather-disaster stories are steadily becoming a subgenre of the action film; think about filmmaker Roland Emmerich’s “The Day After Tomorrow” or “2012,” for instance, which depicted a frozen-over New York City and a volcanic meltdown-engulfed North America, respectively. But when it comes to tornados, 1996’s “Twister” is still the industry classic, and “Into the Storm” doesn’t compare. And it has been nearly 20 years since that Helen Hunt/Bill Paxton vehicle was released! It has been a very long time! But more modern CGI does “Into the Storm” no favors, and there’s nothing nearly as memorable as that cow during the inferior film’s 89-minute runtime.

Perhaps it’s because “Into the Storm” is built around the found-footage gimmick, with teenagers, storm-chasers, and redneck idiots all supposedly filming the disasters occurring around them. The teenagers are really good with technology; the storm-chasers want to receive better funding for their research; and the redneck idiots want to be YouTube famous. But none of that is particularly gripping, and there are inevitably points throughout the film when you wonder to yourself, “Who is supposed to be filming this?” Instead of making the film seem more real, the found-footage aspect undermines it, much like the recent “Earth to Echo,” which also flailed at its execution of this camerawork. And character development throughout “Into the Storm”? Forget about it. It’s better to scoff at the underwritten nature of everything about this film then try to understand it.

“Into the Storm” focuses on a few different groups as their town, Silverton, becomes overrun with disastrous weather. There are teenage brothers Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress), whose single father Gary (Richard Armitage, of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”) works at their high school and wants them to videotape the graduation ceremony. There are stormchasers Pete (Matt Walsh, of “Ted”), who cares most about getting into the eye of a hurricane and filming there so he can become rich and famous, and scientist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), whose main concern is research … of what, it’s never clear, but just research in general, I guess. And then there are a couple of dumb rednecks who are filming their antics as part of the “Twista Hunterz,” and that’s all I’m going to say about that subplot.

So guess what happens: The storm hits and everything goes wrong! That’s essentially all of it, but what’s more telling about “Into the Storm” are some choice lines of dialogue, which I’ve included here. Pete to Allison: “I just want you and your data to find me a goddamn tornado!” Allison to someone: “My storm’s expanding. That means it’s going to be really big.” Trey to Donnie: “Screw Dad!” Pete to the camera: “This is culmination of my life’s work.” Donnie ominously to his crush: “The planet will take care of us.” The Twista Hunterz: “We’re gonna be YouTube stars for the rest of our lives!” Allison to someone: “He’d probably still be alive if it wasn’t for you!” And many people, over and over again: “Are you seeing this?” Unfortunately, yes I am.

The characters and the plot are both silly, and the effects aren’t much better. Some of the destruction aftermath is inspired—like a children’s tricycle being impaled through the side of a minivan—but otherwise it’s just flying car after flying car. The tornados themselves look goofy, too, especially in how they’re presented as forming: just whipping down from the sky at an accelerated pace, not as something that develops and then destroys. The rapidity of the action actually takes away from its impact, so you’re not left with any lasting images, like the cow from “Twister.” It’s all a blur.

At one point before the film’s largely unintelligible final 15 minutes (it becomes so loud that you won’t decipher any of the dialogue being screamed around), one character asks another, “Is that it? Is it over?” For “Into the Storm,” it’s never soon enough.

Enjoy reading this review? Check out our roundup of what other films are opening this week.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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