PG-13  |  114 min  |  Action, Drama, Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle

Disaster films are not a rare commodity but you can't beat them when it comes for big screen imagery and edge of your seat popcorn eating. SAN ANDREAS lives up to the genre with thrills, action, and total building annihilation.

Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is a LAPD rescue-helicopter pilot with a long string of successful saves. But the biggest challenge of his career is also the most important as he tries to rescue his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) during a massive San Francisco earthquake.  As his world literally crumbles around him Ray stops at nothing to complete his mission. In the meantime Emma has to recall all she has learned from her dad in order to survive as she waits for help to arrive.

We have seen Johnson make the transition from wrestler to actor with huge success. He is very versatile and has a way of delivering a solid performance no matter the character or genre. He can go from action flick to kids comedy to sci-fi without ever losing that wide smile and endearing charm. Here it is Ray's devotion and drive to save his daughter that truly makes him shine. Relying more on emotion and decision making rather than just size and strength allows him to bring a bit more depth to the role.

All that means nothing in a film like this though if stuff isn't exploding, collapsing, and taking your breath away. Which it does. The effects and imagery in this are fantastic as we literally see San Francisco demolished by shifting plates and huge ocean waves. I am not sure if people who live along the San Andreas fault enjoyed this movie as much as those halfway across the country; but for us it was a blast to watch.

We get a small dose of Plate tectonics education thanks to the character of Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) a professor at Cal Tech who has developed a way to detect Earthquakes before they happen. But is he too late? It is cool seeing Giamatti take on a role like this. He plays the "caring professor trying to get the word out" perfectly. He knows how to set up a dire scene with an edge and tome to his voice. We know disaster looms even as the camera tightly closes in on his face.

This film is like many of its predecessors like Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and all the films of the 70s that made the genre so popular. But this one is actually better than the prior. Sure there are impossible situations in this that no one could possibly survive. And yes there are moments so far fetched that you almost want to yell, "cheater". For some reason the get a pass in this one. Maybe it is the expert timing and editing. Possibly it is the fact that it is just so overwhelming to watch on the big screen. Regardless, this is a fun summer film that delivers exactly what is needed and expected.

SAN ANDREAS is rated PG-13 for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language. It is wall to wall thrilling suspense that will have you catching your breath at times. The peril and danger may be a little bit much for younger viewers to process and the language can be a bit strong (but who says dang when a building crashes around them?). Other than that there is nothing at all offensive about the content. I give it 4 out of 5 parking garages. More popcorn anyone?

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