Lawrence Toppman

‘San Andreas’: The screenplay’s at fault

CARLA GUGINO as Emma and IOAN GRUFFUDD as Daniel in the action thriller "SAN ANDREAS," a production of New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow Pictures, released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
CARLA GUGINO as Emma and IOAN GRUFFUDD as Daniel in the action thriller "SAN ANDREAS," a production of New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow Pictures, released by Warner Bros. Pictures. Warner Brothers

On the positive side: impressive special effects.

On the negative side: pretty much everything else.

Must I expound on “San Andreas”?

The movie lost me forever when rescue pilot Ray Gaines drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save his daughter from an earthquake. Suddenly, the highway yawned before him. He stopped to ask a local old-timer about an alternate route. A road 70 miles away might be open, he was told – or it might not. Luckily, the old-timer just happened to manage an airfield full of planes gassed up and ready to go!

Yes, writer Carlton Cuse has built his script around the dreaded three Cs: clichés, coincidences and codswallop. Director Brad Peyton merely knocks down buildings, bridges and every bit of credibility left after the first 10 minutes.

We’re told Ray (Dwayne Johnson) and Emma (Carla Gugino) lost one daughter to drowning, when Ray couldn’t save her. Guess what peril awaits Blake, the other daughter (Alexandra D’Addario)?

Emma, who has served divorce papers on Ray, plans to move with Blake into the home of a zillionaire real estate developer (Ioan Gruffudd in a thankless role). But wait – could he turn out to be a snivelling coward who shoves bystanders out of the way during the quake to save his own nasty neck?

While I admire the stunts, they’re absurd beyond imagining. Ray and Emma climb over a tsunami wave as it approaches, coming within 5 feet of the screws of a capsizing ocean liner without being sucked in. (Or bruised. Or even splashed.)

Paul Giamatti lends the film a little dignity as a seismologist, though his main advice is to get under a desk when the largest quake in recorded history strikes. (He also yells “Everybody get down!” after Hoover Dam explodes.) Hugo Johnstone-Burt has a winning presence as Ben, the hunky Brit that Blake meets a few moments before the quake, but his character amounts to nothing.

Gugino gets no chance to show any acting chops, and Johnson bobs his Adam’s apple once or twice to indicate emotional distress. None of that matters much among the deafening crashes of tottering skyscrapers, and even those grow tedious. It’s hard to stay connected to a disaster film where the biggest disaster is the script.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

REVIEW

‘San Andreas’

A helicopter pilot saves his wife and daughter from earthquakes in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

D+ STARS: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra D’Addario, Carla Gugino.

DIRECTOR: Brad Peyton.

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes.

RATING: PG-13 (intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language).

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