I’ve had the pleasure of visiting California a few times over the past few years.  What I saw was gorgeous.  It’s a place where natural beauty is celebrated just as much as man-made beauty.  However, after watching San Andreas, I would think three times before I re-visit that state again.

In San Andreas, the tectonic plates along the San Andreas fault line shift and cause two massive earthquakes that rock Southern California.  These earthquakes cause quite a bit of destruction and cause a fractured family to band together to survive.

Director Brad Peyton takes a total and utter disaster approach to San Andreas.  Most of the movie is one sudden destructive act of nature after another.  Granted, this is how earthquakes operate: they’re unpredictable, quick, and tend to cause mass destruction and tsunamis.  Then again, watching high-rise buildings crumble, split in two, and /or sink in a pancake effect in 3D is quite unnerving.  In essence, Peyton does a good job scaring the pants off his characters and his audience with nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat action sequences.

In the story, Ray (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) have to make their way by hook or crook from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) after major earthquakes in Northern California.  Blake has been abandoned by her soon-to-be stepdad, Daniel (Ioan Gruffold) in a garage with her legs trapped under the driver’s seat.  The driver has been crushed by a concrete beam.  It’s a good thing Blake’s new friends, Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson), are there to help get her out of danger.

In screenwriter Carlton Cuse’s film (with story help from Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore), Ray and Emma go on a journey to save their daughter, and undoubtedly, their marriage.  Blake, on the other hand, uses her wits and the survival skills taught to her by Ray, a rescue pilot for Los Angeles Fire Department.  The crux of the film is about family sticking together when the going gets tough.  The going gets extremely tough and wet in this film.

San Andreas is also about surviving.  Daniel somehow manages to make it out of his crumbling building by going into survival mode.  He not only leaves Blake to die, but actually pushes a man to his death just to save himself.  Paul Giamatti’s Lawrence is a scientist and professor at California Technical Institute.  He and his team have created software to predict an eminent earthquake a few hours before they happen.

Lawrence also incites a city full of people to evacuate hours before a massive tremor decimates the city.  All of the doom and gloom that Lawrence spits out causes one to think how something like this can be prevented.  If you go by Cuse’s obvious theory, the answer is simple: these natural disasters are inevitable.  The only thing we can do is be as prepared as possible.  This, by the way, is a great message whether you reside in California or Florida.

My friend Jaq calls San Andreas, “The Rock versus nature”— which is a great way to sum up what happens in this film.  It is obvious Johnson is in his element.  He gets to play a muscular beefcake of a man whose purpose in life is to be a father, husband, and hero.  It’s almost as if Cuse specifically created the role for him.  Not to mention, Johnson is obviously having a blast playing Ray, “The Ultimate Family Hero.”

Should this film do well in the box office, and is bound to spawn sequels.  California is a large state, so Cuse would have no problem finding another city to destroy.  In the meantime, it’s good to see Johnson doing what he does best, entertaining the whole family and being a hero.  This fits him quite nicely…so do those tight T-shirts he wears in this film.