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Movie Review: 2012 (PG-13)

Chesapeake Family provides family-friendly reviews of 2012, making note of inappropriate content or language, subject matter and other concerns of parents.

 

Go Out With a Bang

2012 makes you wish the world would end that much sooner.

By Roxana Hadadi

However much you may be tempted by the flashy commercials, don’t give in and see 2012. Don’t worry – missing this flick won’t be the end of the world.

The disaster picture, which stars John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson and a whole host of other actors who are too good to be in this film, centers on the idea that the world will end sometime on or near Dec. 21, 2012, an event that was foretold by the Mayans in their Long Count Calendar. But fantastic CGI work and stunning visuals can’t save this film’s poor script, phoned-in performances and repetitive feel – it’s as if director Roland Emmerich just took the same tricks he used with his previous blockbusters, Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, and brushed them off for use here.

And for anyone too young to laugh at the film’s unintended hilariousness and complete improbability, 2012 will surely be an emotional onslaught. Countless people die, buildings collapse and the whole world is ripped apart – and aside from all the violence, the way some of the film’s characters deal with the catastrophe (by abandoning each other, refusing to show any sympathy for their common man and cursing up a storm), is just as jarring.

The film starts off with former writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), whose book predicting the earth’s downfall, Farewell Atlantis, sold fewer than 500 copies; now divorced and working as a limousine driver, he’s struggling to reconnect with his two children, Noah and Lilly, who are closer with his ex-wife Kate’s (Amanda Peet) new boyfriend, Gordon (Thomas McCarthy), than with him. A camping trip to Yellowstone National Park doesn’t help them rebuild any relationships, but does bring Jackson face-to-face with government scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is there trying to gather clues about the recent changes in the earth’s temperature and crust and is starstruck by meeting the author of his favorite book.

The trip also introduces Jackson to conspiracy theorist Charlie Frost (a wonderfully well-suited Woody Harrelson), who uses a radio show and blog to espouse his ideas on how the world’s governments are covering up the imminent disaster. And thanks to Charlie’s well-meaning (if somewhat marijuana-heavy) predictions, Jackson begins to read the signs around him and realize how they’re in line with his book – for example, when a massive fault line rips apart the grocery store Kate and Gordon are in, he realizes that they’re going to need to get a plane before California collapses into the sea.

Sure enough, the state starts cracking apart as soon as Jackson goes back to get his children, Kate and Gordon in his limo, and the group must out-drive the destruction. While old ladies in their Cadillacs smash into walls of rock, roads crumble and countless people fall out of careening skyscrapers (a vastly inappropriate flashback to Sept. 11, 2001), Jackson and Co. manage to jump over huge chasms, maneuver through buildings and scrape under a falling freeway, eventually reaching a private plane Jackson had rented on spur-of-the-moment intuition.

And with their ascent, the film descends into repetitive images, hackneyed scientific research and laughable plot development. Scenes of a volcano exploding, dust storm enveloping Washington, D.C., and tsunamis hitting India are definitely impressive, but eventually, every disaster starts to look the same: As soon as a crack appears in the ground – Emmerich’s calling card – you know what you’re in for. Whether it’s the White House being crushed by the USS John F. Kennedy or the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, all the destruction gets pretty boring.

Plus, the characters’ interactions become just as expected. Of course, scientist Helmsley is the good guy, while government-appointed head honcho Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) is a heartless and cruel bureaucratic official who cares more about the animals and pieces of art he’s chosen to save than the earth’s actual people. But in 2012, nice guys don’t finish last – and you can guess which characters team up to save the day. Unfortunately, though, the actors portraying those characters aren’t giving their best effort. Cusack is his typical deadpan self, but his calmness in the face of the end of the world just seems unbelievable, as does Peet’s attempt to seem concerned for their two young children –she reads as somewhat cold.

All that, coupled with the film’s numerous inappropriate elements for children – a gross portion of Harrelson’s naked bottom, cursing, obscene gestures and all that violence and emotional turmoil – makes 2012 totally not worth your time or money. Just rent Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow instead–and send the kids to bed early.

 

Roxana Hadadi last reviewed A Christmas Carol.

 

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