Movie review: "San Andreas" can't have its quake and eat it too

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

This is why we can’t have nice things.

As someone who sees, like, all the movies (not really, but a lot of them), seeing summer box office numbers is usually disheartening, because the safest bets usually win, which means the risky, less-marketable, more-original movies often lose (see: “Tomorrowland”). This is why we get sequels and reboots and movies that might as well be a reboot.

“San Andreas” is in that last category, a throwback disaster movie chock full of special effects and clichés. Given the massive loss of humanity depicted here, you’d think it would make you actually feel something.

Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) plays Ray, a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue chopper pilot who has saved hundreds of lives through his daring maneuvers and “just doing my job” attitude.

His teenage daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is heading to college. His soon-to-be-ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) is moving in with a new man, though Ray still burns the torch for her.

Don’t worry. After we get that requisite family setup, things start shaking when a massive earthquake hits the Hoover Dam. It’s the first in a series of massive quakes, giving Ray ample opportunity to save his family in dramatic fashion.

So, before I get the “you don’t get dumb action” criticism of my criticism of this movie, I’d like to remind you that I love “Twister.” Dumb action is not my problem with “San Andreas.”

My problem is how much it tries to have a heart and how poorly it works on that level. Ray and Emma have the estranged exes angle that works so great in “Die Hard,” and upon their inevitable reunion, it turns into a parental quest to save a child.

This ends up just being a thin skeleton to show off the latest in destruction effects — which admittedly are pretty impressive. The problem is how often they veer into ridiculousness. That showing off has strangely removed all sense of awe, leading me to wonder exactly when video games started being more realistic than action movies.

Dwayne Johnson does his thang. You know what you’re getting. It’s also a little troubling, in this summer of strong female leads, that we get a double-dip of the damsel in distress trope, and that Daddario (“True Detective”) is the recipient of more than a few leering, bouncy cleavage shots.

“San Andreas” isn’t a remake, but it’s familiar enough that it might as well be. It’s a safe bet for the destruction-porn crowd, so it’ll probably make a lot of money.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

"San Andreas"

Opens Friday

2 stars out of 4