Family Movie Review: Skyscraper (PG-13)

'Skyscraper' is more interested in maintaining Dwayne Johnson's good-guy image than in being a truly bonkers action movie, leading to an imbalanced blockbuster that is never really fun.

Kernel Rating: 2.5 out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13           Length: 102 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. This film about terrorists invading a gigantic skyscraper is mostly scary because of the heights involved; characters climb, jump around, and fight in the tower, and some scenes are shot with a first-person point of view, which may be scary for people afraid of heights. Also some cursing, some threats against children, a flashback to a domestic violence and hostage situation, some fires and explosions, some hand-to-hand fighting, and various scenes of gun violence, which sometimes feel too intense for a PG-13 film.

By Roxana Hadadi

Dwayne Johnson seems like a nice guy in real life, but his interest in only playing a nice guy on film too is a detriment to would-be blockbuster "Skyscraper."

A movie like this, which already has a familiar plot (terrorists take over a building, guy must protect his family in the building; parents will certainly recognize "Die Hard" vibes here), needs to do something to set itself apart. But "Skyscraper" never goes in a really unique direction, instead keeping Johnson's character firmly in "hero and great dad" mode, which is in stark contrast to the rest of the film -- terrorists kill numerous people, there is constant gun violence, and numerous people are in danger. The movie never quite comes together because of its varied parts.

Skyscraper ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview"Skyscraper" focuses on former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader Will Sawyer (Johnson, of "Rampage"), who pursues a job designing a security system for the world's tallest skyscraper, a 225-story behemoth in Hong Kong called the Pearl. Along with his wife, military surgeon Sarah (Neve Campbell), and their two children, he travels to Hong Kong to interview for the job and check out the building, which is fully built but not yet inhabited.

But what Will doesn't know is that the building and its creator, Chinese businessman Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), are the targets of a group of terrorists obsessed with finding a piece of technology that is hidden inside the skyscraper. And so they set the whole thing on fire, endangering Will's family who is inside, as well as Zhao, and casting blame on Will. Can he convince the Chinese police that he's not the enemy, and can he save his family?

"Skyscraper" takes a while to get going, but the film successfully builds the relationship between Will and Sarah, who is capable, poised, and resourceful, so when the film separates the family, the time the movie spends with her is still forward narrative movement. But Johnson's character is so blankly "good" that the movie never really builds the possibility that he or his family could be in danger, and the reasoning for why the terrorists are after the building is weak, too. The movie's real strength is in its action set pieces, which are impressively absurd: in one scene, Will successfully launches himself off a crane into the building, and in another, he vaults himself into the middle of the structure to reset some electrical systems. And because the film sometimes uses a first-person point-of-view style, audience members will experience the building from the same height as its characters, which is a nifty and thrilling trick.

But for the most part, "Skyscraper" can't keep up the excitement needed for an action movie like this. Without many risks in terms of character or plot development, the tension the film could have used is lacking, too.

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