San Andreas (4 stars)

San Andreas

Guilty pleasure disaster movie boasts thrills aplenty and a great hero in Dwayne Johnson

The San Andreas fault, as you probably know, runs right through California, making it the frequent site of earthquakes. Californians fear what they call 'The Big One'. Filmmakers cannot wait. Hey! It’s just such an irresistibly scenic setting for a disaster film! And brother, this is the archetypal Disaster Movie, each catastrophe cliché in place, each plot point absurdly familiar from every genre flick since 1974's The Towering Inferno and all those earthquake / meteor / extreme weather matinee movies on the SyFy channel.

So when a Los Angeles Search and Rescue helicopter pilot learns his ex-wife is with another guy, who has taken his daughter to San Francisco, and the science guys are making alarmed noises over computer screens, you already know just about everything that is going to happen, even before things start to shake, rattle and roll.

But OMG: it is so much fun watching it unfold (most vividly in 3D). Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – now the size of The Incredible Hulk – is great company, and such an engaging action star. He twinkles, refusing to take himself over-seriously through all the cheesy dialogue and utterly preposterous developments thrown at him. The supporting cast (including Kylie Minogue in a cameo) are fun too, particularly Paul Giamatti as the Caltech boffin who does all the scientific exposition stuff about 'seismic this' and 'tsunami that' with earnest grace.

But we’re here for the thrills and director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) keeps them a’coming, from a breathtaking hors d’oeuvre scene of a car crash, through to the absolutely spectacular set-piece destructions of LA, SF and, inevitably, the beloved Golden Gate Bridge.

One does feel a mite guilty and crass for whooping it up just weeks after a real earthquake disaster. But there is no confusing real-life tragedy with what is hugely entertaining, sensational tosh, the sort of thing moving pictures were made for.

General release from Fri 29 May.

San Andreas

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 54min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Brad Peyton
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Colton Haynes, Morgan Griffin, Art Parkinson, Archie Panjabi, Todd Williams, Ioan Gruffudd, Will Yun Lee, Kylie Minogue, Paul Giamatti

An LA Search & Rescue pilot's ex-wife and her new man take his daughter to San Francisco. Meanwhile, in another part of the film, science guys are acting worried. Disaster movie! Johnson is great company, the supporting cast is fun and although the timing of the release is unfortunate, it's tremendously entertaining…