‘San Andreas’ Movie Review: It’s The Rock vs a Rolling California

San Andreas Movie Review
Carla Gugino and Dwayne Johnson in ‘San Andreas’ (Photo © Warner Bros. Pictures)

If you’re expecting awards-worthy dialogue and a plot that makes sense, then you’ve never taken in a big-budget, CGI-packed, Hollywood disaster film before. San Andreas is exactly the movie you expect it to be from the trailers and TV spots. Exactly. There’s a lot of shake, rattle and rolling going on with the occasional break for a little character development followed by even more shake, rattle and rolling. San Andreas is just big, silly, and fun, without being the slightest bit taxing on your brain, a summer popcorn flick that requires zero thought and provides such an adrenaline rush that it’ll leave you exhausted at the end of its two hour running time.

Director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) has taken the standard disaster movie formula and applied it to a situation Californians all know is coming at some time in the, hopefully, distant future: a major earthquake that registers a 9 on the Richter scale. Paul Giamatti plays Lawrence Hayes, a leading Caltech seismologist who just hours before the major quake destroys prime California real estate spanning from Los Angeles to San Francisco stumbles upon the formula for predicting quakes. Lawrence, who loses a colleague in the process of making the discovery, attempts to warn anyone who will listen to flee San Francisco. Fortunately, he’s taken seriously and that’s most likely because all Californians realize it is just a matter of time before the big one hits.


Dwayne Johnson plays Ray Gaines, an LAFD helicopter pilot who seems to specialize in daredevil rescues. He’s the guy you want searching for you if you find yourself trapped in a car dangling off the side of a cliff. He’s also the guy you want heading up your rescue when a major earthquake causes the building to disintegrate under your feet.

Unfortunately for all of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the quake, Ray’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) has first priority on his rescue list. Ray goes all lone wolf during the disaster, but no one in the LAFD ever calls him on it. After plucking Emma off the crumbling rooftop of a downtown building, they head off to San Francisco to rescue their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario). Blake, meanwhile, has made friends with a young Brit and his brother (played by Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson) and the threesome are attempting to figure out where to meet up with her mom and dad. All of this is going on while there’s panic in the streets, with communications down, and with a tsunami forming that will wipe out whatever is left standing in its way.

The Bottom Line:

Toss logic aside as it doesn’t have anything to do with San Andreas. There’s no way a rescue pilot and his helicopter would be allowed to go rogue and take off on a mission to rescue his family in the middle of the largest catastrophe ever to strike the Golden State. There’s no way he’d be able to find his wife in LA or his daughter in San Francisco. Nothing makes sense, yet it’s possible to overlook all of this ridiculousness because you’re busy rooting for The Rock to save his family.

The earth cracks open, people and buildings are swallowed up, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is called upon once again to act heroically. You know he’ll save the day because he’s The Rock, and because he’s The Rock it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll hook the audience enough to care whether in the battle of a dad out to save his daughter versus mother nature at her worst it’ll be the dad who comes out the winner.

San Andreas Movie Review

Working in San Andreas’ favor are performances by all the leads who fully commit to telling the story without winking at the camera, earnestly delivering lines that are met with unintended laughter by the audience. It’s also both surprising and refreshing in a movie of this sort to see the daughter isn’t the standard damsel in distress and instead is smart, fast-thinking and capable of taking care of herself rather than relying on someone to save her. In fact, she leads the way and saves her new friends from making the wrong choices multiple times.

We haven’t had a disaster film this entertaining in years. San Andreas is this generation’s Towering Inferno, Earthquake, and Poseidon Adventure – all classic disaster movies memorable for taking the audience on wild roller coaster rides while not necessarily basing the action on science or logic. San Andreas is loud and goofy, but it earns high marks for never trying to be anything but what it is: a fun ride loaded with explosive, over-the-top action scenes.

GRADE: B

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language

Running time: 114 minutes

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