Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 114 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. Definitely thrilling, and in a way that may be too much for tween or early teen viewers. The disaster movie is about what would happen if a massive earthquake hit a huge chunk of California and Nevada, and there are a large amount of deaths of civilians and bystanders (people crushed by debris, drowned, fallen into chasms, involved in explosions) that aren’t gory but are prevalent and constant; also some cursing (one instance of the f-word); some sexual tension and a few kisses; some cleavage from various female characters; and a plot point involving a young child who drowned.
Dwayne Johnson carries ‘San Andreas’ on his impossibly broad, very capable shoulders, even if the thrilling, silly film never really puts its main characters in danger. Without that needed tension, the film is fun but forgettable.
By Roxana Hadadi
Very few celebrities in this world seem as likeable as Dwayne Johnson, whose transition from wrestling star to acting star has been steady but effortless. He’s injected much-needed charisma into movie franchises that need a jolt (from “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” to “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” to “Furious 7”), and with the disaster flick “San Andreas,” he continues to prove how much the camera loves him.
Disaster movies have a formula, and for the most part, “San Andreas” follows it. Like “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow” before it, the world is in danger, there’s one (male) hero who can outsmart the danger, and he’s going to save his family no matter what. “San Andreas” keeps up such a relentless pace that it’s hard to be bored (there are earthquakes, explosions, floods, building collapses, and more), and Johnson is certainly a likeable and confident lead, but the movie is about 20 minutes too long and a few plot twists short. It goes exactly like you would expect, and the action intensity with which it gets there is certainly too much for younger viewers.
The film centers on helicopter pilot Ray (Johnson, of “Furious 7”), who works for Los Angeles fire and rescue and served in Afghanistan; he’s the picture of American masculinity with a huge pickup truck, a U.S. flag bumper sticker on said truck, and a beautiful daughter to protect. Although Ray is excellent at his job – saving a teenage girl from plunging down a cliff in the film’s first big action scene – his personal life is falling apart: After a family tragedy, his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino, of “Man of Steel”) files for divorce, and it seems like her new boyfriend might be trying to replace Ray in the life of his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario, of “Percy Jackson 2: Sea of Monsters”).
What’s Ray to do? Well, when earthquakes start destroying California along the San Andreas fault line, staying alive becomes his top priority. Three stories are being told at once in the film: There’s Ray, struggling to save his family; CalTech researcher Lawrence (Paul Giamatti, of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”), who thinks he can predict when the earthquakes will hit the state and to what intensity; and Blake, who teams up with two British brothers to make it out of destroyed San Francisco. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when” a major earthquake will hit the California area, argues Lawrence, and as his theorizing comes to fruition, San Andreas puts the “disaster” in “disaster movie.”
Because there is so much crazy, scary stuff in this movie! Land splits in two, creating impromptu cliffs; falling cement blocks trap cars in parking garages; buildings flood floor by floor; a tsunami engulfs boats and tankers. For viewers who are old enough, this relentless pace will be appreciated. The flipside of that, though, is how wasted the storyline with the Lawrence character is; it’s a subplot that is obviously meant to provide audiences with clunky exposition about how earthquakes work, but it never goes anywhere.
What works best is how “San Andreas” nicely positions both Ray and Blake as experts in staying alive, and the savvy nature of Blake’s character is a good counter to the helpless damsel we’ve become used to seeing in franchises like “Taken.” How “San Andreas” threatens everyone but its main characters, though, becomes tedious after a while, and it’s frustratingly noticeable that the only significant cast member who dies is a minority.
Still, the film has a straightforward storyline and an uncomplicated script, which for a disaster movie is the way to go. If you wanted to, you could probably stretch some conversations about emergency preparedness, the role of the media in disaster situations, and the responsibility of the government in rebuilding infrastructure with younger viewers to get them thinking about what’s going on under the movie’s surface. For the most part, though, “San Andreas” is an exciting-enough bit of escapism for parents and teens – a mix of forgettable but fun.
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