A big summer blockbuster disaster movie starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and featuring a (very short) cameo by Kylie Minogue doesn’t exactly sound like much of an intellectual stretch. But San Andreas is so hokey and lacking in subtlety it’s like a paint-by-numbers exercise in getting maximum physical carnage for minimum brain input.
You can clearly see where this film is going from the very first scenes of dashing rescue helicopter pilot Ray (Dwayne Johnson) miraculously plucking a young female driver from the wreckage of her car after plunging over a cliff edge.
Next up is the family-ties establishing shots of Ray’s ex Emma (Carla Gugino) with the new, mega-successful man in her life (Ioan Gruffudd) and Ray and Emma’s loving daughter (Alexandra Daddario) who is about to make a trip to San Francisco.
And finally, there’s the pseudo-scientific stuff of the Caltech seismologist (Paul Giamatti) discovering a way to ‘predict’ the size of earthquakes, just as a massive tremor destroys the Hoover Dam.
From hereon in it’s just a gigantic (and I mean humongous) 3D special effects destruction-fest as the San Andreas fault line cracks open, motorways get gobbled up by the ground, skyscrapers topple like tenpins and San Francisco bay gets swallowed by a mountainous tsunami.
As the earth turns into one giant milkshake blender, masses of people die – but of course, not our heroes, who manage to make it through all the mayhem more or less intact and having befriended a brace of young Brits along the way (Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson).
In fact, just why they should be British has absolutely no bearing on proceedings at all – but then nothing really does, it’s all about bashing as much hardware into pulp as possible. And it’s a hoot. As they stare down into the seemingly bottomless San Andreas fault, Emma asks Ray: “What’s this?” To which a wag in the audience replied: “A hole!”
So, it’s a hole lotta fromage with almost non-stop energy, action and destruction, a plotline that’s so predictable a five-year-old could tell you what’s coming next and the kind of stirring string-laden score reminiscent of biblical epics.
It’s not witty, clever or sophisticated, but the Rock sure rocks as America’s West Coast rock and rolls its way into the sea.