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Movie Review

'San Andreas' Is Surprisingly Engaging

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San Andreas is definitely of the school of Mad Max and The Avengers and Furious 7: all action and no acting.

But it is a good deal better than I expected, largely because it has better characterizations and no hackneyed human villainy. In fact, it has not human villainy at all--all the violence and destruction are acts of unassisted nature.

There may be a mention somewhere of the folly of building atomic facilities on top of a predictable earthquake setting like the San Andreas fault, but nobody is claiming human activity contributes to the disasters themselves. Paul Giamatti predicts the path the related problems will follow, and we frequently return to him to explain the causes and effects, but the most Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino and the others can do is try to get out of the way and rescue whoever they can.

Special effects are marvelous and varied, with earthquakes involving both rising and falling earth, Hoover Dam bursting, bridges collapsing, a lot of flooding, and people falling off roofs and trapped under floors and ceilings and in crushed cars. Practically every character has at least one moment of heroism, and I'm not telling who comes out how in the end. San Andreas is a succession of thrills without gunfire or fistfights or big orange explosions, or, to a surprising extent, fires.

What little acting is called for is satisfactorily performed, with clearly differentiated characters behaving as we would like to think people would, maybe a little more nobly.

I do question the tsunami: Apparently there is another earthquake outside the San Andreas area. But, in general, San Andreas is an unusually grownup disaster movie that will make you grateful that you live in Kansas.