Movie disaster

The Rock flies, skyscrapers fall and dialogue sinks

San Andreas
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd and Paul Giamatti. Directed by Brad Peyton. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0

If you love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and you think California sucks balls from top to bottom, you are going to love San Andreas.

In this movie, you not only get two hours of The Rock’s admittedly winning smile, you also get to see Los Angeles and San Francisco smacked down with a fury matched only by The Rock in the ring during his fake-wrestling heyday. Seriously, if you hate the San Francisco Giants, the Hollywood sign and that white triangle skyscraper thingy in “The City,” this will be total action-movie porn for you.

There’s plenty of other glorious visual mayhem in the film as well, including tsunamis and Johnson’s totally out of control upper-body art. But, sadly, it also contains something nearly as devastating as an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault—dialogue so vapid, so shitty, it crushes the viewer and the film alike.

Johnson plays rescue pilot Ray, a gutsy and virtuous man on the job who, nevertheless, can’t keep things together on the home front. He gets divorce papers from wife Emma (Carla Gugino) on the day he’s supposed to take his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), on a trip. Before he can pout and dwell on things too long, the earth starts shaking.

The first quake actually hits outside California, at the Hoover Dam on the Arizona/Nevada border, and director Brad Peyton shows no sentimentality for national landmarks. The dam is history, and just happens to have a world-renowned scientist (Paul Giamatti) standing next to it when it goes. He heads back to his lab, where he sets out to warn the world of impending, bigger quakes via the worst dialogue of Giamatti’s career, and this guy was in Lady in the Water.

Turns out, the next ones are the really big ones, with catastrophic quakes starting in Los Angeles and leading up to San Francisco. Johnson commandeers a helicopter and sets out to rescue the wife in L.A. and then his daughter in the Bay Area because, you know, millions of people are dying, but he just has this little inkling that he can still put his family back together.

Now, I don’t go to a movie like this expecting dialogue compatible with the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie. I know films like this are meant to kill a few brain cells, and I’m willing to sacrifice them to see The Rock race a boat straight up a tsunami’s ass. But when the dialogue becomes so bad that it makes dialogue from a Michael Bay film sound like the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie, I cry uncle. Or, I just cry in general.

As disaster movies go, San Andreas certainly provides plenty of impressive visual carnage. The special effects are good enough to keep you fighting through, even when the film devolves into the worst of soap operas.

Personally, I was on the fence until the final scene, where the survivors are rather happy and smiley for people who have just witnessed the death of millions. But I suppose I could’ve forgiven a moment of insensitivity in exchange for the several admittedly awesome action-packed moments. But then there’s the ending’s pandering and highly implausible patriotic gesture, and The Rock’s final lame line, which brings the Jenga tower crashing down in one final aftershock.