The new disaster flick "San Andreas" works thanks to a smart decision to keep the action rolling, booming and shaking and keeping any pesky melodramatic moments to a minimum.
There are character moments here -- between Ray (a fun Dwayne Johnson), a rescue-helicopter pilot, his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) -- but they are quick, quiet beats in between massive, epic rumbles.
Seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) has figured out a way to predict earthquakes, which he proves successfully at the Hoover Dam. But then his technique shows that there's a monster quake coming all along the San Andreas Fault, from Los Angeles up to San Francisco.
Meanwhile, Ray is supposed to take Blake up to San Francisco for college, but now he's off on a rescue mission and Blake heads up north with Emma's new beau.
The first earthquake hits L.A. and the city is decimated, with buildings and bodies falling. Then San Francisco is slammed worse and it's up to Ray to keep his family safe.
It should be noted that Daddario's Blake is a strong, tough character, who is ready for disaster and not just waiting for daddy to save her. It's a great change of pace.
"San Andreas" thrives on its continual devastation. This is a vehicle for action, and a movie like this needs just enough character building to keep the stars interesting. But then something goes boom and you're focused on the devastation again.