USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

It's big. It's dumb. It cost more than the GNP of Lichtenstein. It's "Volcano" and it's erupting onto screens everywhere with an explosion of inane dialogue, cardboard characters and enough cliches to choke Mount Saint Helens.

The film opens with a series of earthquakes shaking up L.A., followed quickly by two city workers flash-fried extra crispy in an underground tunnel. Fortunately for L.A., the head of the Office of Emergency Management, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is not buying the steampipe theory of immolation. Instead, he turns his steely and skeptical gaze onto a plucky geologist with magma on the brain. She's on the scene because the script needs her there to explain that the problem is a volcano in the making. He laughs her off, but his steely gaze is just a little less skeptical and could he also be falling in love? Well of course. All steely gazed heroes have love interests and who cares if the script fails to give him any reason to go gaga?

What follows is the usual, by the book, countdown to disaster. Once the fun begins, geysers explode from the streets, fire pours from the La Brea Tar Pits and lava bombs are lobbed at random. The resulting chaos, confined to Wilshire Boulevard and a neighborhood nowhere nearby and on the poor side of town, inspires one character to proclaim, "This is not a safe place." Duh. Tommy sets about diverting the lava with one harebrained scheme after another, always with the help and support of his plucky geologist sidekick.

I will say this for "Volcano". It delivers on its promise. We do see lava running through the streets of L.A. Well, not running, lava once it hits the air doesn't so much run as saunter and this is a real problem. You can outrun it. Heck, you can outwalk it. Visually, it just ain't compelling. I'm not saying that there aren't dramatic possibilities inherent in stuff that flambes on contact, I'm just saying that this film doesn't exploit them properly. And the special effects, which are the whole raison d'etre for flicks like this, are more interesting than eye-popping. "O, that's what lava in the front hall would look like." There's nothing here to match those flying cows in "Twister" and no reason for you to spend 107 minutes of your life watching it.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 4/30/97

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