A ridiculous script and mediocre special effects mar this ludicrous disaster pic. Mick Jackson’s film covers several storylines, alternating between them in short staccato bursts. The overall premise is that an earthquake opens a volcanic fissure under Los Angeles, causing magma and volcanic rock to erupt from the La Brea tar pits and MacArthur Park. In the film’s primary storyline, Tommy Lee Jones stars as Mike Roark, head of Los Angeles’ Office of Emergency Management. He is divorced, having spent more time managing emergencies than managing his family, and now has to cope with an increasingly rebellious daughter (Gaby Hoffman). When this disaster strikes, Mike consults L.A. geologist Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), and struggles to keep his family and his city away from harm. Other plots come and go, and none have any real strength. There’s a sloppy diatribe about racism and racial unity in which a racist cop confronts an angry black man trying to save his neighborhood. There’s a piece about a subway that runs across the fault, and a rescue attempt to save the same. There’s even a cute-dog-in-peril bit. But, particularly in the end, the cross cutting between the varied subplots murkifies the whole. Definitely in action disaster flicks such as this, plot and dialogue come second to the effects, but this film scrapes the bottom of the barrel with its preposterous plotting and sappy moralizing. However, for a film relying on the strength of its special effects, they prove to be a mixed bag. Some of the lava scenes are cool (or hot, I should say), and provide several tense moments. Yet, other shots are much less than impressive, particularly when the film resorts to gimmicky slow-motions effects. Overall, the devastation to Los Angeles is far less than one would think. Not only is any damage from the initial volcano-inducing earthquake completely ignored, but the fires and heat from a lava flow down the center of L.A. seem more of an inconvenience than a natural disaster. Without strong effects or any significant plotting, there doesn’t seem to be much to recommend about Volcano. This one should have remained dormant.
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