The San Andreas Fault in California has been overdue for a massive earthquake for over 100 years, so when the earthquake finally does hit, it is unlike anything the world has ever experienced before. After LA is hit, and hearing warnings of quakes right the way up the coast to San Francisco, where his daughter is, rescue chopper pilot Ray (Dwayne Jonson) decides to traverse the country to save her.
San Andreas may not be the disaster movie we need right now, in the aftermath of the devastation in Nepal last month, but if somehow, you can put that to the back of your mind, and remember that this is seriously over the top fiction, there is a lot of fun to be had here.
The cast – Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson – do exactly what they are there to do, but it is Dwayne Johnson and Paul Giamatti that come out of the whole situation the best. Johnson knows that this film is over the top and incredibly cheesy, and he doesn’t fight it; instead, he runs with every silly situation and ridiculous line of dialogue – yes, even the inevitable flag waving – and has fun with it. Paul Giamatti brings some much needed honest emotion and gravitas to the film, preventing it from disappearing completely into the realm of the silly. Oh, and Kyle Minogue turns up in a baffling cameo.
Carlton Cuse’s screenplay takes every disaster movie cliché you can think of – estranged wife, dead child, another one in danger – and rams them, along with some seriously cheesy dialogue, into the almost 2 hour running time. There is very little point in trying to think about San Andreas logically – Wait, doesn’t Ray have an obligation to help people he’s not related to? – because this is where the entire film will fall apart.
Director Brad Peyton makes San Andreas as over the top and ridiculous as possible; the ground often ripples like the sea (which looks cool, I’ll grant you), buildings collapse and sink, and tsunamis can be outrun, all in the name of saving family. The 3D, as usual, adds nothing to proceedings and although there are times when the CG is passable, it very often errs on the side of the ever so slightly rubbish. Still, the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious and so there is a lot of silly fun to be had here.
In all, San Andreas is big, loud and over the top. If you loved 2012 and Twister, then this is the movie for you. Dwayne Johnson carries the silliness on his impressive shoulders; with Paul Giamatti grounding the film just enough that it doesn’t spin off the axis of reality entirely. Don’t think about it too much, and San Andreas is fun. Overthink it, and you’ll ruin the entire shebang.