“Drop, cover, and hold on”. Giamatti’s “Director, California Institute of Technology” shouts this out once here, and then some, to emphasise that it may have The Rock, but this is a serious film about rocks and what happens when they move. “A seismic swarm”, he calls them, as not just one (Los Angeles) but at least two (also San Francisco) cities are laid to rubble. The mid-way cities go unmentioned. For good measure, Giamatti also throws in a couple of times “We’re at Caltech!”, to reassure the jittery nerves of a TV anchor (a very non-nervous Punjabi), and keeps up talk of “magentic pulse rates”.
But Giamatti isn’t the only one adding gravitas to this vehicle for Johnson’s push towards loving dad roles and for 3D, special-effects mayhem. Gruffudd (The Fantastic Four) drops in to play a multi-millionaire with a private jet, a limo and no children. So you know who’ll be the “bad guy” in a film about earthquakes. Kylie Minogue gets in only two bitchy lines — actually just one about a dead child — before she is thrown up, literally.
Our man Ray (Johnson) is on the other end of the spectrum. A Los Angeles Fire and Rescue employee to whom duty comes first and rescuing people comes naturally. When quakes strike though, going up to 9.6 (“biggest ever recorded”), he dedicates his service chopper entirely to first rescuing estranged wife Emma (Gugino) and then daughter Blake (Daddario).
That said, San Andreas does a professional job of keeping those tremors coming. Dams, bridges, buildings, roads, all get blown up again and again, and then eventually a ship as a tsunami rolls in. Talk is minimal, and even romance lean. Johnson does a good job of rescuing, and Gugino and Daddario of being rescued, though Blake does know a thing or two about emergencies herself.
If only Nepal wasn’t a recent memory, one could almost ignore the piling death count. That said, there are no bodies here, not one.