Action/Thriller, 114 Minutes, 2015
There is a kit, used since the 80’s, to create disaster movies. The parts are all optional, but the kit generally produces something that looks an awful lot like what’s come before. As I’ve said, originality isn’t always a metric of quality, but when your movie’s plot almost completely mirrors Sharknado [IMDB] you might be starting at a disadvantage.
Many parts of the kit are used here. The nameless hero (well, he has a name, but you won’t remember it) is a grizzled veteran. Dwayne Johnson [IMDB] foreheads his way charmingly through the role. His ex-wife, played by the always enjoyable Carla Gugino [IMDB], is in a relationship with another man. One who is wealthier than her ex, but also soon to be revealed as a total douchebag. The hero is trying to do right by his kid, but his job is demanding and the new guy has more time and resources.
We learn much of this in the first few minutes while we watch the hero do something heroic. This is what he does, people! As a bonus, we also get the scientist (Paul Giamatti [IMDB], looking very sciencey in his thick, black glasses) that suffers a major loss himself and knows exactly what’s going on, but can’t get anybody to listen him. A hot reporter that helps get the word out is thrown in for good measure.
The story progresses along two major paths. We follow the parents as they struggle to reach their missing daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario [IMDB]. We also follow the missing daughter as she puts the skills her father gave her to good use. The thread of the scientist, always struggling to get the word out, is woven loosely between.
Oh, have I mentioned that it’s an Earthquake movie? No? Well, it doesn’t really matter. It could be a hurricane, a deep freeze, an alien attack, a tornado or, yes, even a sharknado. The story plays out the same. In all of these cases, the science of the actual disaster scenario is utterly ignored in favor of tabloid fantasy.
Strangely enough, even the paint-by-numbers plot and complete lack of believability don’t completely destroy the movie. The story is utterly predictable, but the cast is solid, engaging and attractive. The science is wince-worthy, but the effects are decent and it’s well paced. The emotional beats are trite and obvious, but also positive and uplifting.
Predictability and cliche keep it from rising above similar offerings, yet there’s still good, solid work here. If you’re able to check your brain at the door and give it the benefit of the doubt, there’s quite a bit of popcorn fun to be had.