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'San Andreas' has remarkable CGI effects

The movie has cornball disaster-brings-families-together underpinnings, but 'San Andreas' is a respectable entry in the disaster movie genre.

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'San Andreas' stars Dwayne Johnson (l.) and Carla Gugino (r.).

Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures/AP

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I’m something of a sucker for disaster movies. “Earthquake,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno” – bring 'em on. I’m not sure there’s ever been a disaster movie that was actually a good movie, but that’s almost beside the point. The point is to watch things blow up real big.

“San Andreas” doesn’t have the accouterments of the genre at its best: no cavalcade of slightly over-the-hill stars, no scenes of panic in the White House, etc. But it’s a respectable entry anyway. Dwayne Johnson – would it really be so terrible if he still billed himself as The Rock? – plays an active-duty Los Angeles Fire Department search-and-rescue helicopter pilot who, once the Big One hits, spends much of the movie rescuing his wife (Carla Gugino), who is divorcing him for a ninny billionaire, and then, mission accomplished, saving his daughter (Alexandra Daddario), who is trapped in the rubble that used to be San Francisco. (This part plays out a bit like an apocalyptic version of “Taken,” with Mother Nature subbing for the kidnappers.) 

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The CGI effects in this film, directed by Brad Peyton, are quite remarkable and help take one’s mind off the cornball disaster-brings-families-together underpinnings. Johnson is stalwart – boy, is he stalwart – and the rest of the cast does a good job of mimicking fright while, no doubt, hollering in front of a blue screen inside a studio. Paul Giamatti plays a Caltech scientist who blows the whistle on the Big One, though not with very much lead time at all. 

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I do wish the film had played up a bit more how obnoxious these seismologists can be – they’re practically gleeful – when reporting the bad news on TV. And the film ends on an upbeat note that can only be called wishful thinking. If you were hoping for a sequel, “San Andreas – The Aftershock,” you’re way too cynical for these auteurs. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language.)