Reviewed by Joel Mathis
Rating: 8.5 Beans
here's a reason my friends beg me not to go with them to see movies like Volcano, I know too much for my own good. I can barely sit still watching a movie filled with scientific inaccuracies and Volcano provides so many blatant ones that it made my head feels like exploding. Couple that with bad acting by decent actors and a script that is paper thin at some points and piles it on hip deep in others, it makes for one painful movie.
Tommy Lee Jones stars as Mike Roark, head of Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management. As is typical in disaster films he has a kid (so that he can have something personal threatened) and is a work-a-holic (to show us what a great man his character is). In a twist that movies the overworked disaster film into the 90's, Anne Heche is Amy Barnes one of the few female warning-spouting scientists. She is there to provide a love interest, get threatened by the lava, come up with a zany idea that is "so crazy it just might work", and give us exposition. Roark helps with the exposition and proves you don't need to pass elementry school to hold a major govermental position when he needs to ask, "What's magma?"
When people begin dying undergroun in really cheesy special effects, its a warning that bad things are coming to LA. Of course, the warnings are ignored by a greedy official who won't close the beaches (wait, wrong movie). Before too long a lava flow is coming out of the La Brea tar pits and moving down a city street. Naturally, our heroes are there to get threatened, make a daring, yet extremely predictable, escape, and help save LA. A major sticking point for me here is the lava doesn't actually flow, so much as just follow this one street ignoring the handy features of being a liquid such as flowing around barriers and through buildings. I will give the film credit, though, as there is a precedent for the basic method used to stop the lava, but then, those people who stopped the lava for real were not standing two feet away from 1500 degree molten rock without any protective clothing either.
After the halting of the initial threat, of course something else has to go wrong. Underground the lava is shooting through the subway, ignoring all ventilation shafts, subway stations, and other paths of least resistance to blow out through six feet of concrete in a street. After the heroes stop the new threat the film takes time to stop and beat us over the head with a tacked on message of racial harmony.
Overall this movie is bad, rivalling the worst disaster films of the late seventies. It doesn't seem like they had a script so much as a mad-libs screen writing kit flipped open to the disaster film page. About the only big difference I saw between the plot of Volcano and any other distater film was that Volcano killed two evil, greedy officials/developers. Even the effects were lacking (at one point the poisonous gas threatening a lead character is "sucked" into the ground by threading the film backwards rather obviously). Avoid it and rent The Towering Inferno instead.
Other reviews for this movie:
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