‘San Andreas’ Review: The Earth Earns a Title Shot Against The Rock

San Andreas

“San Andreas”
Directed by
Brad Peyton
Written by Carlton Cuse (Story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore)
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson
Rated PG-13
**1/4 out of ****

For the past few years, my wife, Danielle Perri, served as my co-writer/founder at our old site, We Hate Your Gimmick. Here, she joined me as we reviewed Hollywood’s newest bit of disaster porn, “San Andreas”.

MATT: Your initial reaction to me saying, “I’m seeing ‘San Andreas'” was, in essence–.

DANIELLE: It was: (makes gagging sound)

MATT: Mine wasn’t quite the same. It was more like, “All right. Bring it.” You know? Kinda like The Rock and how he (sticks out arm, does the “BRING IT” thing The Rock used to do) does that?

DANIELLE: Who?

MATT: The Rock?

DANIELLE: Who now? I don’t believe he wants to be called that anymore.

MATT: Oh, that’s right. He’s pulling a “Rick Schroeder” and wants to be called “Dwayne Johnson”. I just can’t I can’t. He’ll always be The Rock to me.

DANIELLE: Well, at least you got the wrestling reference in. And it only took you…(looks at watch)…what, all of 47 seconds?

MATT: 37 seconds. Get a new watch. (Danielle sticks her tongue out at me.) All in all, the movie wasn’t bad. At least I didn’t think it was.

DANIELLE: Same here. A lot better than I expected — but not without it’s…faults.

MATT: Oooooo…woulda been more impressive with the Caruso shades and the “YEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHH”, but I see what you did there. But, yeah, the movie’s not without its issues. It’s your typical alpha male jock of a movie: big, dumb and stupid looking but hits you in the face hard and steals your lunch money. It’s the type of movie that shows you famous city skylines and their landmarks and then superimposes the name of the city as if we didn’t know that the Hollywood sign was in the greater Los Angeles area. But, then, the target audience thought the film was an adaptation for one of the Grand Theft Auto games when the trailer debuted, so…and, forgive us if we’re not fully explaining “the plot” here. There really isn’t one. The movie basically sets up the usual “everyday family”, then the Earth starts shaking and we’re lucky we got that much character development.

DANIELLE: Ironically, parts of this movie feel like one of the GTA games. The Rock runs around, practically invulnerable, stealing cars, planes and even boats. It’s exactly like GTA. There’s one point in the movie, San Francisco’s burning away and there’s no way him and Carla Gugino are gonna navigate through fire and brimstone — I mean, Gugino would die and The Rock would probably adapt and suddenly be able to breathe fire and smoke and eventually become a dragon or something — but he’s basically like, “We can’t walk through all that crap, so let’s take a boat.” So, he sees this boat. And it’s not like it’s there, ready to rip. The owner’s already taken it into the bay — but, somehow, the next shot is The Rock and Carla Gugino on the boat. No explanation of how that happened. I’m thinking he ran away a couple blocks and then returned and, boom: the boat re-spawned. But that’s just speculation at this point. I’d really hate to think that The Rock bludgeoned the guy.

MATT: He was Superman in this film. Nothing bothered him. Earthquake? Whatever. We’re gonna fly this chopper from Los Angeles to Bakersfield. Chopper’s gonna crash? Let’s glide the fucker into this chain store and find a car to drive the rest of the way by hot-wiring it. Guy who owns car has a gun? Fuck him. Pistol whip him. Let’s go. Oh, shit. Car can’t go any further. Let’s grab a prop plane from an airfield that happens to be nearby. He has an answer for everything. Here he is, they set him up early on: he’s this decorated military guy who’s served in Afghanistan and he’s part of this elite rescue unit that choppers around California, rescuing people from their overturned cars and forest fires — everyone else in the movie is taking bumps except for him. His wife is escaping a burning — and collapsing — building. She busts an eardrum, gets a concussion, is probably bleeding internally. His daughter nearly has her legs crushed in one scene before she’s rescued by this dopey British dude who’s basically like, he’s like the guy you hire when you can’t get Hugh Grant or Colin Firth or pretty much anyone from “Love, Actually”, so you hire this guy and–.

DANIELLE: He’s an Aussie.

MATT: Right! And so they hire this guy (Hugo Johnston-Burt) and he just…you remember that one Family Guy episode where Peter and Lois are at the movies, watching that Hugh Grant flick? It was basically this:

MATT (con’t):That bit is Johnstone-Burt through the entire movie. And it’s insulting because here’s Blake (Alexandra Daddario), she’s intelligent and strong and a total feminist role model — but it’s pretty much by default because he’s like (British accent) “Oh no! I’ve got a cut. Whatever shall I do?” And Blake is totally charmed by his puppy dog demeanor.

DANIELLE: And his baby brother’s already one-upping him because he’s this prototypical beta male wimp. He spends part of the movie trying to get into her panties–.

MATT: And probably would have succeeded with a little more time and effort. Man…the little brother (Art Parkinson)…I forgot about him.

DANIELLE: Why was he a character? I mean, Ben’s at a job interview so there’s no reason his little brother should even exist.

MATT: Demographics. Same reason we got the young daughter who beat up Velociraptors using Olympic gymnastics in The Lost World.

SAN ANDREAS

DANIELLE: What was so silly to me was the fact that, as you mentioned, Johnson’s character is portrayed as this upstanding military hero — and he goes rogue with a company chopper –.

MATT: And nobody at his home base is trying to contact him. “Hey, Rock, where the hell are you, we have 180,000 people to save from a burning building, we might need air support,” and Rock’s like, “You don’t talk to The Rock that way. I’m the man who killed Chuck Norris. This was his chopper.”

DANIELLE: And he didn’t even really need the chopper. It was as if the filmmakers paid for the rental time and didn’t want to waste the money.

MATT: And that whole plot device produced one of the worst quake survival instructions ever: “Get to higher ground.” Yes, you’re in a 35-story building that’s about to shake apart and collapse…but get to high ground so your helicopter pilot husband can pick you up on the roof. He not only tells his wife this, he tells his daughter this — and this film had the backing of ready.gov??? Really??? I doubt their instructions for quake survival are, “If you’re in an uptown skyrise and the building begins to shake, head for the roof. For reals.”

DANIELLE: “Ready.gov: The King of Beers!” (Matt laughs.) Man, I’d hate to see what happens to him in a sequel.

MATT: “He stole a bunch of vehicles and abandoned his post to, uh…badly perform CPR on his daughter who’s, like, ten years younger than he is and that’s kinda creepy!” (Danielle giggles.) “The Rock stars in…HAYWARD FAULT.”

DANIELLE: They need to include a scene where he’s standing trial and he’s facing the judge and he says, “Sorry, judge…it wasn’t… (takes out sunglasses, puts them on)…my fault.”

MATT: YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHH!!! I like it! You know, we kid a lot but Dwayne Johnson does a fantastic job in this role. He’s really found a niche as a big Hollywood action star

DANIELLE: We can’t leave the review without discussing three of the other supporting actors. Paul Giamatti who just has so much fun in a role that he honestly fits in. Archie Panjabi, the Indian actress who plays the reporter and Ioan Gruffudd, who plays the guy Gugino’s character is dating because her and The Rock are separated.

MATT: I really thought Giamatti was good in this. As you said, he “fit”.

DANIELLE: He really did.

MATT: Even though he’s just playing some guy who somehow knows everything that nobody ever listens to. This movie takes that to the next level.

DANIELLE: Was it his over-dramatic student slideshow that you didn’t like? Or was it the breathy tone and grimacing during his “predictions”? Or the magical “Cal Tech” that withstood four earthquakes at the strength of 9 or more on the Richter Scale?

paul-giamatti-san-andreas

MATT: With their phones, computers and televisions all still working after each one. I loved that one line, by the way: “Don’t worry! Cal Tech is the safest place to be right now!” No, my favorite bit was where they need to “get the word out” about San Francisco’s impending big quake, so they actually pirate a television signal. That’s all well and good — but ultimately pointless. I mean, I can forgive the fact that they actually had the cliched hacker trope where the guy hacking the signal furiously types code, claps his hands, turns around and declares, “WE’RE IN!” That always makes me giggle. It was the fact that CNN brought them on the air. So, why the hell did they go to the trouble of creating a “pirate signal” when CNN could have just picked up their broadcast after a simple affiliate phone call?

DANIELLE: Added to that, Panjabi is a reporter who’s reduced to nodding her head in wonderment because Giamatti’s sooooo smart. At one point, they’re under a desk together and she’s basically got her head on his shoulders and it just, the whole scene feels awkward.

MATT: At least she’s not Ioan Gruffudd. He just, like, he’s there. He’s a nice guy who’s probably gonna become Blake’s new Dad. He’s a rich city real estate guy with buildings in — SURPRISE: San Francisco. They all live in a fucking house the size of The Napa Fairmont and about as beautiful. Then he becomes a douche for no reason and he like, he runs away from Blake during the earthquake and then, nobody, like nobody cares about him and he’s dead an hour later from quake debris.

DANIELLE: “Gruffudd” was the sound of him dying when that heavy shipping container landed on him.

MATT: Whew…that’s devilish. I like it! The movie, overall, is decent even though it’s a prime example of a recent theory that action movies are pretty much attempting to re-write 9/11. There’s even a scene — and I laughed because I called this. I said, “Well…at least they don’t have a scene where the American flag is waving in slow motion as a ‘source of inspiration'”. Whoops. There’s actually a scene where they’re just kinda catching their breath after San Francisco’s been through hell and The Rock’s like, “We’ll rebuild!” Boom. American flag unfurls. And this is the best part: it’s hanging from the ruins of the Golden Gate bridge, meaning that somebody authorized a crew to climb a hundred feet into the air upon the ruins of a possibly unstable object just so that they can hang the country’s flag because earthquakes are evil, just like ISIS.

DANIELLE: It was red meat for the Fox News crowd. Gotta show the flag or else the terrorists win.

MATT: But…it was a movie about an earthquake destroying the city, not terrorists.

DANIELLE: ‘MURICA! SHUT UP!

MATT: So, personally, I give this thing two stars. I liked the whole “stuff blowing up real good” thing. It was a mindless action picture with a few poignant moments with some great performances out of Johnson, Gugino and Giamatti. Much better than I expected and, certainly, the best movie this week, if DeGroot’s review for “Aloha” is any indication.

DANIELLE: I’ll go two and a half. I thought The Rock was great and I think he could really branch out and play some great dramatic parts. I’m not talking Oscar here, but he was the best part of this movie.

MATT: That’s a final rating of **1/4 stars for “San Andreas”. Stay tuned next week as The Workprint will bring you reviews for “Entourage” and “Spy” and, of course, feel free to talk at us in the comments section. See ya’!

DANIELLE: Have a nice weekend! Thanks for reading!

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