Main cast: Dwayne Johnson (Chief Raymond “Ray” Gaines), Carla Gugino (Emma Gaines), Alexandra Daddario (Blake Gaines), Ioan Gruffudd (Daniel Riddick), Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Ben Taylor), Art Parkinson (Ollie Taylor), Archie Panjabi (Serena Johnson), Will Yun Lee (Dr Kim Chung), Kylie Minogue (Susan Riddick), and Paul Giamatti (Dr Lawrence Hayes)
Director: Brad Peyton
Hey, Kylie Minogue is in this movie! I’d recognize those cheekbones anywhere! But don’t be fooled by her name as well as some of the more recognizable names spotlighted in the cast billing, though – let me just say that most of them don’t stay on screen long enough for you to do anything more than to say, “Hey, isn’t that… never mind, dead.”
San Andreas is, of course, an earthquake movie. The San Andreas fault line sees some major action in this movie, and naturally, it’s the biggest earthquake ever, taking out San Francisco (the focus is on Los Angeles, because it’s the only city that matters) and everyone is like, oh, people died, but who cares? The Rock must save his daughter or we will all be really sad.
Mr Johnson plays the latest variation of his usual roles, this time the role is called Chief Ray Gaines, of the Los Angeles Fire Department who is also a survival expert and master of helicopter kung-fu. Unfortunately, he is too manly to grieve after the death of his other daughter, who drowned because he couldn’t save her in time, and this drove his wife Emma into the arms of Daniel Riddick, a millionaire who builds skyscrapers in Los Angeles. Emma wants a divorce so that she can move on with Daniel, and Ray is so sad. Fortunately, Daniel will soon show his true colors when the earthquake strikes, leaving Emma free to love Ray once again. As if we all don’t know that British millionaires who wear suits are evil incarnate compared to rugged action heroes like The Rock!
Anyway, it all begins with a pretty bad earthquake that takes out Dr Kim Chung while his colleague Dr Lawrence Hayes watches in horror. Those two are studying some unusual fault activity near the Hoover Dam, when oops, Kim has to stop to rescue the token idiot little girl crying in the order plot device and oops, dead. By the way, is it just me or the movie implies very heavily that Kim and Lawrence are more than just colleagues? Anyway, Lawrence and his team discover that there is more earth-shattering fun to be had, and spend the rest of the movie looking melodramatically at the camera or giving exposition to fill the viewer in on how everyone is going to die, oh no – well, except the usual people whom everyone knows will never die because this movie doesn’t even deviate a little from the formula.
Ray’s daughter Blake follows her mother’s boyfriend Daniel to Los Angeles while Emma and Susan have lunch when the earthquake strikes again. Ray rescues Emma pretty easily compared to what he has to do for the rest of the movie, while Blake meets Ben and his brother Artie in their misadventures in Los Angeles while they try to make it to high ground and wait for Ray to come rescue them. Ray is like a god here – he can smash things down with his bare hands when mere mortals can only shake their heads helplessly, he can do helicopter kung-fu like a boss, and he can even navigate a boat over a tsunami without getting a scratch. Oh, and he can bring the dead back to life too – no, I’m not kidding. Ray is really awesome, as it’s the law of the universe that god will strike dead anyone who dares to give The Rock a movie role that is anything less than perfection. Blake inherits her father’s awesomeness too. Her leg was crushed badly in a car when the ceiling caved in, but when Ben and Artie manage to free her leg, she can run, carry Ben around, and more without breaking a sweat. Compare her to Ben, who screams like only a British could when a mere glass shard pierces his leg – what a cry baby. After kissing Blake, however, he joins the ranks of the demigods in this movie – while he previously has to be carried around, he can now carry people instead despite the wound on his leg. I think Blake can spread the awesome through her cooties.
This movie is formulaic to a fault. When things seem okay, of course a bad thing happens right at once. Nothing is unexpected in this movie – the characters are stereotypes, the scenes of danger and suspense are what one would expect and happen right on cue, and even the characters that need rescuing at critical moments are whom seasoned viewers would expect them to be. As usual, bricks, stones, whatever seem to target little girls and cute women, forcing our manly men to risk their lives making a detour to rescue those things. Or in Kim’s case, giving his life. The only suspense I experience, one that has me at the edge of my seat, is whether Hugo Johnstone-Burt would finally throw off that tight shirt he is wearing to show off those muscles that look so lovely alongside his bulging arms, but alas, that bastard kept that thing on even when it’s all wet and dirty. The pay off of San Andreas is so crappy that way.
The movie wants to allow The Rock to emote a bit – and the man’s efforts to cry are unintentionally hilarious – but it does so by having Ray and Emma inexplicably pause in between what should be a frantic dash to save Blake to talk about their feelings and what not. These scenes are poorly timed, badly written to the point of mawkishness, and Mr Johnson isn’t going to convince anyone that he’s good at dramatic roles anytime soon.
San Andreas has some very dramatic special effects that would appeal to casual movie-goers, and would no doubt do a brisk business in the pirate DVD market among folks who would love to see nothing more than the land of infidels that is America suffer a devastating catastrophe. It is exactly like every disaster flick out there, however, right down to the obligatory shot of the American flag toward the end of the movie. So, there isn’t really much here to get excited over. It’s a decent time-waster when one stumbles upon it on TV or something, but it is not what I’d consider “dash out now and see” material.