In San Andreas — this year’s strongest contender for Best Picture — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gives the performance of his career —
Oh, who am I kidding? No one going to San Andreas is expecting anything Oscar-worthy (except, perhaps, for the special effects). Listen: San Andreas is a big old slice of summer blockbuster cheese. In fact, it’s the Velveeta of cinema cheeses: smooth, creamy, and so processed it’s practically synthetic —
— none of which keeps it from being delicious over nachos.
From the soundtrack (assaulting you with pounding percussion just in case you’ve missed the fact that This! Is! Dramatic!) to the dialogue (“Pray! Pray for the people of San Francisco!”), this film is one hour and fifty four minutes of popcorn-flavored thrill ride. People sitting around us in Regal Cinema’s IMAX 3-D theater gasped and laughed and rolled their eyes at all the right moments — and frankly, so did we.
There’s no question what the draw is here. It’s not the actors, who are merely grist for the mill: cliché creatures so two dimensional not even Real 3D can give them depth. It’s not the plot, in which Ray (“of hope,” get it? get it?), in an effort to save his marriage, his family, and himself, manages to get from LA to San Francisco in less than two hours during a disaster powerful enough to level both cities.
No, the star of this show is Chaos. Landmarks collapse in digital high-definition detail. Massive oil tankers, forced aloft by massive tidal waves, arc above the Golden Gate Bridge like Shamu jumping through a hoop. Millions upon millions of tiny digital people are ground into hamburger, but we feel fine, thanks, because The Rock redeems himself, his wife decides to come home, and his daughter finds true love in the rubble of the Bay Area.
Ah. Should I have mentioned that the last paragraph there contains spoilers? Nah, I didn’t think so, either.
San Andreas will be playing every half-hour of every day for the foreseeable future at every theater on the planet. Buy the biggest tub of popcorn they sell, pop on your 3D glasses, and hang on tight.