Dwayne Johnson saves 'San Andreas' from turning to rubble

Judged purely as a serious film, "San Andreas" is throwaway at best. Characters are introduced and thrown out without much thought and all the destruction in the world can’t disguise a script that alternates between checking off all the boxes on a “disaster movie” list and offering predictable characterization. 

There is surprisingly strong direction offset by moments that will make you face-palm. There were several times through the picture where I correctly guessed either what would happen next or what someone would say. For a film that wants to be taken seriously, this is not a good sign, as I’m the guy who acts like the peanut gallery during trailers.

But let’s be honest, no one walks into "San Andreas"expecting a powerful piece of film; they come in for a sugar rush of pop entertainment. In that regard, the film delivers on almost every level.

If the phrase “keep it simple, stupid” was applied to disaster films, it probably would look something like "San Andreas." The film wastes no time in showing us the actions of Chief Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) and even less time getting to the earthquake that endangers his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and his daughter Blake (Alexandria Daddario). 

Paul Giamatti also pops up as the walking plot explainer, telling everyone to "GET OUT OF THERE," because every disaster movie needs to have one of those. 

It’s a movie that’s seemingly designed by Hollywood suits to entertain the masses and get snickers from the critics. So why did I come out of it so thoroughly entertained?

Maybe it’s because everyone involved gives it his or her absolute all to turn this faulty script into a sturdy foundation. Everyone plays their part so down-the-middle that a bunch of workman-like events and performances come together to form a solid rush of summer entertainment. 

Johnson is usually an uneven leading man, but years of being the best thing in bad movies allows him to now take on a persona similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger; he takes things seriously, but always maintains a certain sarcastic charm that lets you know he thinks all of this is ridiculous and entertaining too. 

The supporting cast also puts in some incredibly strong work, managing to shake out enough from a very thin script that seems to speak in monosyllables. But, in case you just like to watch disaster movies to see things crumble and people die, have no fear: it’s all beautifully shot and expertly edited, and kudos to director Brad Peyton immersing us into the ride to the point where you can be thrilled and even find humor in something that would make me run to the bathroom for cover.

Is "San Andreas" a good film? No. Is it a well-crafted piece of summer entertainment? Absolutely. I wasn’t swooning so much that I couldn’t breathe like the lady next to me, but I fell for the cheesy movie just long enough to admit that I got rocked; blame the aftershocks for my lame pun.

Reach the reporter at jagger.czajka@asu.edu or follow @JaggerCzajka on Twitter.

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