There’s a scene all modern blockbusters seem to have where someone runs from a falling structure while computer generated debris falls all around them and they miraculously escape un-squished. San Andreas takes that idea and stretches it out to feature length, but to its credit manages to inject enough pathos to stay engaging.
Director Brad Peyton seems to have taken the disaster porn of Roland Emmerich’s oeuvre as a challenge and attempts to top it. He unleashes digital destruction the likes of which mine eyes hath never witnessed, an orgy of pixels laying waste to a good chunk of the USA. It’s the kind of M-rated film where thousands of lives are cheerfully snuffed out without much reflection, and a character falls through a collapsing building before dusting herself off and walking away unscathed.
Dwayne Johnson is as charismatic as ever, but he often feels lost inside a CGI vista, not really getting to showcase his bulging body. Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario on the other hand are filmed somewhat leeringly, but they also get to play characters as tough and resourceful as their male counterparts.
San Andreas is stuffed with disaster movie tropes, including occasionally cutting to Paul Giamatti’s Professor Exposition, and a bad guy whose badness is telegraphed by the fact that he’s wearing eyeliner. But the cast is so endearing that putting them in jeopardy over and over again is thrilling enough to be worth your time.