LET'S GET something straight: San Andreas might just be the quintessential Rock experience. He pilots a (red, white, and blue) helicopter. He punches bad guys. He saves his wife from a collapsing building. Towards the film's climax, he rides a boat up a tsunami before it crests—effectively kicking nature's ass, too.
Which is not say San Andreas, a disaster flick intent to capitalize on "the big one" paranoia, isn't a veritable poo-nami. It most certainly is one of the least watchable movies I've seen in years (and this is coming from a someone who possesses a supernatural appreciation for cinematic stupidity—just consult my well-worn Blu-ray copy of Little Man). It doesn't even work to judge it solely on the merits of its special effects, as it's impossible to illustrate catastrophe without humanity, and the California of San Andreas feels about as lifelike as Sim City (although I suppose one could argue how that's a pretty accurate portrayal of Los Angeles).
Dwayne "The Rock" "Herculean Naked Mole Rat" Johnson plays prototypically gruff fire-rescue chief Ray Gaines, just your average American guy a little down on his luck. You see, his one-in-a-million wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) have left him for multi-millionaire, high-rise architect (foreshadowing!) Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd). San Andreas enforces the aphorism that rich men are invariably cowards, and watching Daniel die is undeniably satisfying.
There's other bullshit that's probably worth a cursory mention: a British kid with an annoying face (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his precocious little brother, who convene with Emma after the quake hits; a quick and easy paycheck for the traditionally unassailable Paul Giamatti, who plays Dr. Lawrence, a pseudo-science spouting seismology expert. Every other resident of California is pretty much dead by the end of the movie.
The final scene sees Da Rock and Emma in a rescue camp overlooking a totally submerged San Francisco. As an American flag is majestically draped over the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge, the hackneyed, transparently patriotic dialogue reaches its logical spire.
"What now?" Emma asks.
"Now," replies the Rock, "we rebuild."
Cue "We Built This City."