What the critics are saying: ‘San Andreas’

TORONTO — The latest CGI-packed disaster movie to slam into cinemas is San Andreas, an earthquake flick from Canadian director Brad Peyton that hopes to shake up the box office.

Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino battle the devastation caused by a massive earthquake as they make their way from Los Angeles to San Francisco to rescue their daughter (Alexandra Daddario). Paul Giamatti plays Lawrence Hayes, a professor who comes up with a way to predict when the quake will hit.

Will audiences who watched the real-life devastation of earthquakes in Nepal on the nightly news rush to cinemas to see Hollywood’s fake quake? Is San Andreas a summer thrill ride or a disaster? Here’s a look at some of the reviews.

Mark Hughes at Forbes called San Andreas a major disaster.

San Andreas opts for the ‘soulless rampage of damage’ approach, with a story and characterization that feel like a rough first draft offering the most bare-bones effort at creating an excuse to depict a bunch of shots of things breaking and falling down in California,” he wrote.

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“The dialogue is awful and on the nose at every turn, or laughably campy without seeming aware of its own campiness. It just all feels thrown together in a hurry so there would be stuff happening in between shots of buildings toppling into one another.”

READ MORE: 10 earthquake movies that left audiences shaken

Hughes said he felt sorry for the actors “because most of them at least seem to be trying rather than just throwing up their hands and treating it like a simple payday” and singled out Johnson as “far too good … to be saddled with material like this.”

Like many seismologists, Hughes took issue with the tsunami that washes away San Francisco.

“It was so random in its inclusion, so stunningly inconsistent, that I have no doubt audiences everywhere will instantly be taken out of the movie as they turn to those around them and ask, ‘Wait, what??'”

He recommended the movie for people who want to enjoy “the spectacle of people dying amid horrible disaster.

“But that’s all you’ll be getting,” wrote Hughes, “and you should expect more from even summer popcorn disaster flicks.”

In The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern noted the lack of fatalities in San Andreas.

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“No one is dying—you can see that from the conspicuous absence of corpses—because the predictive power of Professor Hayes’s new system has given people ample warning to go somewhere or other, but not to their graves,” he said.

“Only in Hollywood can catastrophe be cleansed of unpleasantness.”

Morgenstern wrote: “San Andreas changes all too quickly from satisfyingly foolish to dismayingly dumb to genuinely stupid.”

The Toronto Star reviewer Peter Howell also singled out the movie’s dearth of death.

“This is a rare example of a disaster film that actually downplays the devastation,” he wrote.

“Street scenes in San Andreas are thus often surprisingly empty, and more damage is seen being done to structures than people.”

READ MORE: What the critics are saying about other recent movies

David Edwards of the Mirror complained about the “lacklustre storyline which measures a good 9.6 on the cliché scale.”

He was impressed by the special effects but said the movie’s quieter moments turn San Andreas into “a disaster movie of a very different type.”

Edwards noted “cardboard characters acting out hackneyed plot twists.”

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At Entertainment Weekly, Chris Nashawaty opined: “As patently preposterous, scientifically dubious, and unapologetically corny as director Brad Peyton’s orgy of CGI devastation is, its popcorn prophecy of the inevitable is a blast of giddy, disposable fun. It’s a ridiculously satisfying slice of summer disaster porn.”

He clarified that he is not suggesting San Andreas is a great film. “But as mindless sensory barrages go, its fakery taps into something real: It shows us just how impotent we all are to control our planet.”

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post described the “cliché-filled” movie as “idiotic” and said it is “oblivious to both narrative logic and the laws of physics.”

Brian Truitt of USA Today opined “the cringeworthy dialogue and unmoving earnestness are the biggest disasters in this mostly forgettable action flick.”

He said the best thing about San Andreas is its leading man.

“In a town that’s short on macho action heroes these days, Johnson is probably the only man in Hollywood who looks like he could take on an earthquake and win,” wrote Truitt.

“Johnson does what he can with the material, though no one is helped by Carlton Cuse’s ham-fisted script. Many of the lines are met with a thud, and the worst of them induce groans and laughs.”

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He concluded that San Andreas “is unlikely to move anyone in any real seismic way.”

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