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04 Jun 2015

Carnage, Yes; Coherence, No: 'San Andreas' Offers Great Visuals, God-Awful Dialogue

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Dwayne Johnson in San Andreas. Dwayne Johnson in San Andreas.

If you love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and you think L.A. sucks balls, you are going to love San Andreas.

In this movie, you not only get two hours of The Rock’s winning smile; you get to see Los Angeles and San Francisco smacked down with a fury matched only by The Rock in the ring during his fake-wrestling heyday.

Seriously, if you hate the San Francisco Giants, the Hollywood sign and that triangle skyscraper thingy in San Francisco, this movie is total porn for you. The film contains plenty of glorious visual mayhem involving earthquakes, tsunamis and Johnson’s totally out-of-control upper body art.

Sadly, it also contains dialogue so vapid, and so shitty, that it crushes you like The Rock’s enormous, meaty hand squishing a beer can.

Johnson plays rescue-pilot Ray, a gutsy and virtuous man on the job who can’t keep things together on the home front. He gets divorce papers from his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), on the day he’s supposed to take his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), on a trip. Before he can pout and dwell on things much, the earth starts shaking.

The first quake hits the Hoover Dam—and we soon learn that director Brad Peyton has no sentimentality for treasured landmarks: The dam is history. World-renowned scientist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) just happens to be standing next to it when it goes, and he heads back to his lab, where he sets out to warn the world of impending, bigger quakes via the worst dialogue of Giamatti’s career—and this guy was in Lady in the Water.

These quakes are The Big Ones, with catastrophic temblors starting in Los Angeles and leading up to San Francisco. Johnson commandeers a helicopter and sets out to rescue the wife in L.A. and then his daughter in the Bay Area, because, you know, millions of people are dying, but he has this little inkling that he can still work things out with the wife and kid.

Now, I don’t go to a movie like this expecting dialogue equivalent to the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie. Films like this are meant to kill a few brain cells, and I’m willing to sacrifice a few cells to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson race a boat straight up a tsunami’s ass. However, when the dialogue becomes so bad that it makes the dialogue from a Michael Bay film comparatively sound like dialogue from the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie, I cry uncle. Or, I just cry in general. Lost film opportunities hurt me so.

The special effects in San Andreas are good enough to keep you fighting through the movie, even when it devolves into the worst of soap operas. Personally, I was on the fence until the final scene, when Ray and his family are surveying a completely annihilated San Francisco. They are rather happy and smiley for people who have just witnessed the death of millions. Then, a huge flag unfurls on the wreckage of the Golden Gate Bridge. Let me make this clear: Given that the worst earthquake in recorded history just ended mere minutes ago, procuring a flag of this magnitude, securing it on a very unstable structure, and getting it to unfurl just so would be virtually impossible. Then The Rock’s final line of dialogue did me in.

As disaster movies go, San Andreas provides plenty of visual carnage. Unfortunately, one usually has to listen to a movie while one is watching it, and when the words sneak past the ears and up to the brain, bad faces and disgruntled throat sounds ensue.

San Andreas is playing at theaters across the valley.

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