An earthquake wipes out a fat chunk of California in San Andreas, but that’s nothing compared to the destruction rained down on your brain cells by this movie’s idiotically hilarious dialogue. Hell, I’m as up as the next guy for a dumb summer epic with special effects that fire up audiences to unzip and say, “Blow me.” But did San Andreas have to be such a monument to stupidity?
On the surface, it looks like ideal summer escapism. Tons of computer-generated mayhem and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to save what’s left of the world. I stand firm in my admiration for Johnson as a top-flight action star. He’s a force of nature with an appealing sense of humor that makes him eminently relatable. But Rock, please, why this? Your first teaming with director Brad Peyton on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island impressed, well, nobody.
In San Andreas, Johnson plays Ray Gaines, an LAFD helicopter pilot who specializes in search-and-rescue operations in Los Angeles. And, boy, does he pull a doozy. Over at Cal Tech, seismologist Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) is predicting a swarm of tremors along the titular fault line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. What’s Ray to do? Screw the citizens he’s not related to. Ray jumps in his officer chopper to rescue family. That’d be Emma (Carla Gugino), his estranged wife, and their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), a babe who’s stuck in the rubble in Frisco until saved by Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), a cute Brit, and his precocious younger brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson). But the Brits are just filler till The Rock gets there. As for the rest of humanity? Frankly, the movie doesn’t give a damn. We just hear Giamatti issuing warnings to a TV reporter, played by The Good Wife‘s Archie Panjabi. So that’s where you’ve been, Kalinda!
I digress, mostly because there’s nothing to keep the pulse alive after the first quake. Peyton throws in a second quake and a tsunami, but after a while buildings tumbling into the ocean are just a bunch of pixels turning everything into visual mush and leaving audiences in a digital stupor.
And, oh that script! The work of Carlton Cuse, of Lost fame, who here has totally lost his bearings. After an endless repetition of “OMG” and “Oh, shit!,” words seem to have lost all meaning. Near the end, Emma asks her ex, “What do we do now?” And the Rock answers: “We rebuild.” Now if only he had told that to the screenwriter, much much earlier. OMG. Oh, shit!