Movie Review: 'San Andreas' Earthquakes in California have always interested moviemakers, from San Francisco in 1936 to Earthquake in 1974. Now comes San Andreas, which stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
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Movie Review: 'San Andreas'

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Movie Review: 'San Andreas'

Review

Movie Reviews

Movie Review: 'San Andreas'

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And for those of us who live in California, earthquakes are a fact of life. For moviemakers, they make for action-packed fantasy. The latest seismic film is called "San Andreas." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times, and he says this one hits close to home.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Residents of other places can experience earthquake dramas like "San Andreas" without fear. Those of us who live in California, however, are not so fortunate. Oh, no. We have to ask ourselves if the entertainment on offer is going to be worth the sweaty palms sure to come. The answer is shaky. "San Andreas" does have the technical might to make horrors like collapsing high-rises and towering tsunamis all too real. But even by the undemanding standards of the disaster genre, this movie is chock-full of cliche characters, staggering coincidences, and wild improbabilities. Dwayne Johnson plays Ray Gaines. He's a rescue helicopter pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department's Search and Rescue Unit. He's an all-business type who never gets flustered. Think "Dragnet's" Jack Webb with arms like fire hydrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SAN ANDREAS")

DWAYNE JOHNSON: (As Ray) Natalie, don't you worry. I'm going to get you out of there.

TURAN: Cut to the hallowed halls of Cal Tech, where a rumpled seismologist played by Paul Giamatti has figured out a way to predict quakes. Listen as he tells a TV reporter his astonishing findings.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SAN ANDREAS")

PAUL GIAMATTI: (As Lawrence) This whole chunk of land will be decimated.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As TV Reporter) Are you saying the whole San Andreas Fault might go off?

GIAMATTI: (As Lawrence) Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

TURAN: Ray Gaines, meanwhile, is trying to get his big arms around his personal life. He has an estranged wife played by Carla Gugino and a child headed up north to college. When the quake strikes, Ray first rescues his wife and then tells her we're going to get our daughter. It's that kind of a movie, not that any of that turns out to be easy, even involving an unscheduled exit from Ray's plane.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SAN ANDREAS")

CARLA GUGINO: (As Emma) But I don't know how to parachute.

JOHNSON: (As Ray) That's OK. We're going to tandem jump.

GUGINO: (As Emma) I think we should just stay with the plane.

JOHNSON: (As Ray) The plane's going to nosedive in the Pacific as soon as it runs out of gas.

GUGINO: (As Emma) OK.

TURAN: Pray for the people of San Francisco, someone suggests at one point. And while you're at it, spare some good wishes for the viewers of "San Andreas." They're going to need them. Standing on shaky ground, this is Kenneth Turan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALIFORNIA DREAMING")

THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS: (Singing) All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.

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