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The world is ending, again, but this time The Rock is so well established as the man who can save it, San Andreas spends more time coasting on his reputation than establishing peril. San Andreas is a paint-by-numbers end-of-the-world movie. Following a formula so textbook that not a single beat of the plot comes as a surprise, it still manages to entertain thanks largely to the charisma of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
This movie will likely do well at the box office, but not because it’s a good movie. It is, however, a reliable one. Audiences expecting an entertaining ride will get exactly what they paid for, with Johnson as tour guide. It seems obvious that director Brad Peyton, who has worked with Johnson multiple times, knows how to tap into the appeal of his star. The movie knows what its best assets are and uses them well: Johnson’s rock star of-course-he-can-do-that muscle and Alexandra Daddario’s (as Blake, the distressed but smart daughter of Johnson’s character Ray) floating bosom. Carla Gugino plays a reliable role as the determined mother, and Paul Giamatti is the scientist no one listens to until it’s too late.
Of course, the predictability diminishes the intensity. Although it’s disaster porn, the impressive landmarks falling prey to the epic California earthquake in this movie are limited to the Hollywood sign and the Golden Gate Bridge. It seems the screenplay, by Carlton Cuse, takes for granted that audiences are not so much scared by natural disasters anymore as willing to accept them as a backdrop for 3-D heroics and brisk emotional resolution.
The movie spares zero time for natural reactions to a natural disaster (no one calls on God, for example; salvation comes mainly from Johnson) or consequences for actions even the “good guys” take, like stealing. But this is a fairly clean movie, despite its disaster theme and multiple, nongraphic deaths, earning its PG-13 rating from one F-word.
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