1 November 2015 | dglink
A Disaster of a Disaster Movie
Disaster movies have been popular ever since Clark Gable survived the 1906 earthquake in "San Francisco." Decades later, producer Irwin Allen raised the disaster-movie stakes with all-star casts that battled capsized ocean liners and burning high-rises. Unfortunately, Irwin Allen had no hand in "Volcano," and the stars featured are limited to Tommy Lee Jones and Don Cheadle, unless viewers consider Anne Heche a star. Jerome Armstrong and Billy Ray's nonsensical screenplay focuses on the destruction wrought in Los Angeles by the eruption of a newly formed volcano that rises from the La Brea Tar Pits.
Director Mick Jackson keeps the action swirling to distract viewers from the implausible events taking place on screen. "Volcano" is one of those films in which characters have arguments or emotional interchanges while molten lava fast approaches, but apparently does not emit any heat, because the mindless chat continues. Of course, kids and dogs are spared, shattered glass falling from skyscrapers lands harmlessly on the lead actors, hair-breadth escapes abound, fire fighters have time to stand and cheer while buildings burn around them, and the initially antagonistic Jones and Heche form a mutual admiration society at fadeout. Jones and Cheadle must have appeared for the money, and both emerge relatively unscathed. Heche and Gaby Hoffman as Jones's daughter are best left unmentioned; the rest of the cast is best left in the embers.
The essential key to a successful disaster movie is the quality of the special effects, and those in "Volcano" fail to get a passing grade. Fire, lava, explosions, falling glass may sound exciting, but, by the final credits, the film has become a reddish blur, and viewers have long lost interest in who survived and who did not; we never got to know any of them anyway. "Volcano" makes the earlier Los Angeles disaster flick, "Earthquake," seem like "Citizen Kane;" at least that 1974 entry had Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and George Kennedy leading the cast. "Volcano's" best moment is a fleeting glimpse of Fox News anchor Shepard Smith.