Blow My Stack over
Dante's Peak & Volcano:
-by Ken Begg
habit of releasing competing movies on the same topic is well documented.
If things work out, both films are profitable, ala Deep Impact and Armageddon.
More commonly, one (or both) of the pictures tank. Sometimes one film has
a better idea of what audiences want. When Wyatt Earp and Tombstone
clashed, it was a battle between a very good serious film and a very good
rousing movie. People preferred the latter, and Tombstone enjoyed
success while Wyatt Earp became Kevin Costner’s most unwarranted
The year 2000 saw dueling
Mars films vying to hit theaters first. Mission to Mars won the
race – and fared poorly at the box office anyway. Now the producers of Red
Planet have to hope that viewers were rejecting the film and not the
theme. (And that star Val Kilmer doesn’t throw an Island of Dr.
Moreau.) Otherwise, our two Mars films might become this year’s Prefontaine
and Breaking All the Odds. You know, the rival movies about runner
Steve Prefontaine? You don’t? That’s exactly what the makers of Red
Planet are afraid of.
This leads me -- as you
might have guessed from the title of this piece -- to 1997’s competing
‘volcano’ movies. Both, ultimately, did middling business. (Although Volcano,
which I was surprised to learn sported the smaller production budget of
the two, fared somewhat better at the box office.) At least the films’
producers tried to set the movies apart, though. Dante’s Peak is
set in the small mountain community of Dante’s Peak, WA, features second
tier stars, and is rather stupid. Volcano, meanwhile, is set smack
in downtown Los Angeles, features one major star, and is extremely stupid.
These are their stories.
10 Things (and more) I Hate
about Dante’s Peak
- The opening of Dante’s Peak is
actually pretty good. The title is introduced with a volcanic
eruption, and it’s nice to get right into things.
- At least until we see what the purpose
of this scene is. Unlike Volcano, I hadn’t seen Dante’s
Peak until I started writing this. Therefore I wasn’t prepared
for how incredibly schematic the script would be. So not only do we
meet lead Pierce Brosnan as a heroic seismologist, but we witness him
losing his wife/lover/whatever in the initial eruption. This is
already playing like a generic template script from a screenwriting
class, with events being used to make us ‘care’ about our
characters. Will Brosnan find love again? Will he be able to save his
no doubt soon-to-be-introduced new love? Three minutes into the movie
and it’s perimeters are already snapping into sharp focus. Not many
surprises will be found here, I guess.
- Sure enough, the very next image is of
Brosnan, "four years later," torturing himself with
exercise. A photo of his dead wife/lover/whatever appears on screen,
‘clueing’ us in on how he’s still haunted by her death. Also,
his room is really messy, because, you see, he just doesn’t care
anymore. Look, we know this is a disaster movie. We’re watching
it to see incredible spectacle, flamboyant deaths and mass
destruction. Admittedly, cornball personal stories are a hallmark of
these films, but frankly, we don’t really care. Unless you’re
really going to surprise us by either killing off Brosnan or his new
love (Linda Hamilton, presumably, as she’s the female lead) or
actually lending some depth to the characterizations, well, we’d don’t
give a rat’s ass.
- Clichés ahoy! Brosnan learns that the
long dormant Dante’s Peak is showing signs of activity. ("What
do you think the odds are against an eruption up there? A thousand to
one?" "More like ten thousand to one." There’s
some original dialog.) So he heads to the nearby town, wittily named
Dante’s Peak. This sits right under the matte painting, er, volcano,
and we find a celebration going on there. You see, DP has been named
America’s 2nd Most Livable Small Town – "Most
Livable," huh? There’s an irony for you. Yeah, boy. Bet
it won’t be so ‘livable’ after that volcano erupts and starts
killing people and stuff.
- We cut to the home of Hamilton, who’s
the town mayor. Continuing the Plot-O-Matic 3000™ scripting, she’s
also a single mom -- i.e., potential love interest -- and has two
adorable moppets. Hey, they could be Endangered Loved Ones Who Must be
Dramatically Saved later in the movie! Hmm, speaking of, I’m sure
there’s a family dog around here somewhere.
- By the way, if Hamilton’s the mayor,
why is she still at home while the big Pioneers’ Day Parade is going
on? Isn’t that the kind of thing a small town mayor would be
- Terminal Cuteness Alert!! First, Brosnan
is staying at a motel called Cluster’s Last Stand. Ha ha. (Nor is
this ever explained. Is the owner named Cluster?) Then, as Hamilton
rehearses her speech accepting the previously mentioned award, she can’t
remember the presenter’s name. Then she can’t remember where her
jacket is. Then she’s berated by her has-it-all-together Adorable
Young Daughter. Ha ha. It’s so hard to raise a parent these days,
- As Hamilton drives to the awards
ceremony, we see happy, laughing children jumping into the local
river. The bucolic happiness of these early scenes will no doubt make
the horrors to come all the more poignant. Wouldn’t you think?
- The Most Livable Town Award (man, that’s
just so ironic) is being presented by Money magazine. I’m
not sure if this is a knee-jerk Hollywood knock against Capitalism or
not. However, given the fact that the volcano has lain quiet up until
the time when the town is recognized by *sniff* ‘Money’
magazine makes me suspect that this is the case. Perhaps if the award
were being given by Sierra magazine -- which, now that I think
about it, actually would be ironic -- all these lives might
have been spared. Anyway, I predict that the woman from Money
will get whacked.
- I knew it!! After giving a speech about
how wonderful the town is, Hamilton introduces an Evil Capitalist (or
so we can assume, as there are no other kind) who is planning to *gasp*
invest in the town. Ha! Man, I can smell this stuff a mile off.
Anyway, now that we have an authentic Evil Capitalist to knock off, I
guess the woman from Money magazine isn’t needed anymore.
- We cut to two Innocent Young Lovers
skinny-dipping in the local hot springs. And, oh-oh, they’re
visiting from LA! (Damn Big City Types!) And look, birds are
spontaneously flying away. Animals always know, don’t they? Hmm,
what could happen now? Let’s just say that when I describe the woman
as ‘hot,’ I’m speaking in a literal sense.
- When Brosnan introduces himself to
Hamilton, the Evil Capitalist horns in. Can he also be after Hamilton’s
affections? I wonder who will end up with her in the end. *Cough*
- Hamilton finds her errant Mildly
Rebellious But Adorable Son hiding with some buddies in the town’s
Abandoned Mineshaft. Hmm, could they be setting something up for later
in the picture?
- How come the Adorable Son’s face was
clean when he left the mine, but is now smudged with dirt?
- Wow, Brosnan sure is bonding (no pun
intended) with those kids quickly.
- Hamilton visits her ex-mother-in-law at
the woman’s remote but extraordinarily beautiful mountain home. Boy,
the old lady is cantankerous. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she
was the film’s Beloved Yet Crustily Stubborn Old Coot Who Refuses to
Leave Their Home (and Pays the Ultimate Price)™. Keenan Wynn, as I
recall, played this trope in a made for TV volcano movie back in the
‘80s, but I couldn’t dig up the film’s title.
- And, hey, look, Grandma has a dog.
- Hmm, abnormally high acid count in the
local lake. Dead withered trees. Maybe something is wrong here
after all. Despite, you know, the ten thousand-to-one thing.
- Brosnan looks at a rock for a second and
tosses it away. He notes that examining rocks can tell you when the
volcano was last active. "When?" Hamilton asks, and he
responds, "Seven thousand years ago." Give or take ten
years, I’m sure.
- Watch out! Adorable Son is preparing to
leap into the previously established Deadly Hot Springs! Whew! Brosnan
stopped him at the last second. Thank goodness. Hey, there are the
parboiled bodies of the earlier victims. Soup’s done!
- Hamilton -- at Brosnan’s suggestion,
duh, why is this woman mayor? -- calls a town council meeting. It
turns out that some of the other town leaders (all men, natch) want to
cover things up, in case the Evil Capitalist decides not to invest in
the town. Where do scriptwriters get their ideas?
- Brosnan’s crew arrives in town. Let’s
see: A woman, an Asian, a Middle-Eastern-type fellow (filling in for
The Black Guy) and the Comic Relief Bearded White Guy with a Taste for
Loud Clothing. Yep, everyone’s here. Also, Brosnan’s Salt of the
Earth Boss & Father Figure. I’m not entirely sure this guy will
make it through the picture.
- Brosnan’s Boss isn’t ready to accept
the situation yet, as it’s too early in the picture. He thus shows
up at the council meeting to disagree with Our Hero. (It’s a
standard element in Disaster Movies that there’s one guy who knows
what’s going on but is ignored.) This provides *cough*
Dramatic Tension while also supplying inadvertent cover for the Evil
Male Obstructionist Town Leaders. In a bit that I’m sure Liz from
the And You Call Yourself a Scientist! site would love, the
Boss is shown to be misguided because he wants to wait for scientific
evidence instead of panicking the town based on a gut feeling. This is
what Brosnan wants to do, and, of course, he will be proved right. I’m
sure that, being a Misguided Boss as opposed to a Resentful, Arrogant
Boss, he will make up for it later with a Tragic Yet Redemptive Death.
- Just in case they were being too subtle,
I guess, the Boss later tells Brosnan that one must consider *gasp*
political and even *double gasp* economic matters in a case
like this. How evil. Again, does anyone else find it weird that
Hollywood spends, as they do here, over a hundred millions dollars to
make a film that sneers at (lower and middle-class) people who worry
about ‘economics,’ all in hope of making further hundreds of
millions back? And does so again and again and again?
- Brosnan goes to a diner and, lo,
Hamilton is the owner/waitron/short order cook. Of course, she’s a small
business owner (and a woman), so it’s OK. It’s not like she’s
some Evil Capitalist, investing in small towns and such. Also, we
wouldn’t want to think that she’s just a politician. No, she’s a
modern Super-Woman: Mayor, Business Owner, Single Mother. And,
needless to say, she’s superlative at each job. Meanwhile, the fact
that her sign promotes the diner’s espresso and cappuccino is meant
to assure us that, despite living in this small town, she’s no
hillbilly rustic or anything.
- Pepsi Product Placement!
- While Hamilton’s sophistication is
indicated by her serving espresso and cappuccino, Brosnan orders a ‘regular’
coffee, establishing that he’s a unpretentious Real Man. I know this
all is confusing, but the politics of coffee are very complicated.
- This whole scene (including an extremely
pointless spilling-coffee-on-Brosnan bit) is, apparently, meant to
provide our stars with a ‘moment.’ So that we understand how they’re
falling in love and all. Romantic music plays in the background, lest
we somehow have failed to catch on to all this.
- Speaking of my fellow sitemaster, Liz, I
should lodge a complaint on her more liberal behalf. If I found
Hamilton’s character obnoxiously PC, an equally valid or even
superior objection could be made from the other side of the aisle. To
wit, except for being beefed up with ludicrous credentials, her ‘character’
really doesn’t have any function other than in relation to Brosnan.
She acts as his romantic foil, thus providing for his ‘redemption’
vis-à-vis his wife/lover/whatever’s death. Also, between herself
and her kids she provides a passel of potential victims for him to
white knight. In fact, it’s this ridiculous lack of direct
functionality that no doubt resulted in the character being gaudied up
with her superfluous mayoralty and business ownership.
- Liz will be particularly thrilled to
learn that this feminist paragon, our Mayor/Entrepreneur/Single
Mother, still has time to periodically come by and deliver coffee to
the seismologists. Now, to an extent, this can be justified. She does
operate a coffee shop, and as mayor she might just be checking in to
keep tabs on the volcano situation and bringing along the java to be
nice. Still, it’s pretty funny. I should note that, in this one
small regard, Volcano is the better film. While even more
horrendously Politically Correct than our current subject, at least
that film’s heroine is a seismologist and thus serves an actual plot
function. The fact that the character is played by the laughably
inadequate Anne Heche doesn’t diminish this fact. Well, OK, actually
- Hamilton invites Brosnan to dinner,
saying it’s to thank him. When he asks why, she reminds him that he
saved her son’s life at the hot springs. Yeah, that’s a pretty
- She also thanks him for
"caring." That, I guess, and the ‘saving my son’ thing.
- Brosnan goes up in a helicopter with
Bearded Guy and finds no evidence of an impending eruption. "It’s
quiet," BG notes, to Brosnan’s frustration. (Pick your own
punchline: ‘Yeah, too quiet’ or ‘That’s what the
volcano wants us to think.’) This again illustrates why you
need somebody with a good gut feeling, because otherwise you keep
demanding scientific ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’ that something’s
going on. Actually, we earlier were shown a nearby lake boiling. Even
if it stopped, wouldn’t all the dead fish seem kind of weird?
- Over to Hamilton’s house for the
dinner. Brosnan is consistently shown getting along smashingly with
the kids, just so we know he’ll be a good father when he and
Hamilton end up together. He shows them how to line up and then knock
over a series of dominos (c’mon, the son’s like twelve and he’s never
seen this?), leading the daughter to ask if he knows "any
other tricks." (?) Not exactly a tough crowd. Appallingly, he
does know more tricks, and ‘comically’ does the old Invisible
Thread gag. Luckily, the scene ends before his legendary repertoire of
card tricks is brought to the fore.
- Later, Hamilton and Brosnan are sipping
wine on her porch. "I couldn’t imagine living anywhere
else," she says. Ah, the Pathos.
- As mournful yet romantic music (yes, OK,
we get it) fills the soundtrack, Brosnan reluctantly opens his heart
and tells Hamilton the story of his dead lover. See, by sharing this
most intimate and painful part of himself with her, he alerts us that
Hamilton might be the one with which he can finally find love again.
Are we clear on this? Because I wouldn’t want anyone to miss it.
- Brosnan goes onto the volcano with Asian
Guy and Bearded Guy to set up some seismographs. This horrifyingly
sets up some, that’s right, ‘comic relief’ regarding his
burgeoning romance with Hamilton and Bearded Guy’s wacky past
attempts to set Brosnan up. This scene is rather perfunctory (thank
goodness), but makes us wish that the volcano would get a move on.
- Oh oh! More ‘humor.’ See, Middle
Eastern Guy *really* likes his cappuccino. Take my word for it.
This is the second time they’ve mined this rich vein of comedy, so I
guess it’s now officially a ‘running’ gag. C’mon, where’s
- They now showcase a walking robot (it’s
the ‘cool science’ part of the film) that’s to enter the volcano
and send back video. It gets stuck on the way down and Bearded Guy
goes down to monkey with it. Since they haven’t killed anyone is
almost half an hour, I think we can safely assume that…yep, there he
goes. Oops, wait, he’s only wounded. Brosnan repels down to help him
and calls for a helicopter. I guess this isn’t a Cool Death
Sequence, it’s a Cool Rescue Sequence.
- When the team contacts the local ‘copter
guy to affect the rescue, he holds them up for more money. Hmm, a
greedy helicopter pilot in a disaster movie. I expect we’ll be
seeing that guy later.
- Earlier they went out of their way to
establish Bearded Guy removing an "ELF" unit (Extreme Low
Frequency) from the robot. We can only assume that this gismo will
play a role later in the picture.
- The Boss gives the situation another
week. (Brosnan had asked for two days.) Then, with no evidence having
presented itself, he prepares to pull out. Despite Brosnan’s
Cassandra act, the others concur. Dammit, don’t they see that he’s
the star of the picture?! What more ‘evidence’ do they want?
- Cut to a local tavern. Brosnan is
playing pool and Hamilton’s at the bar. She’s seen momentarily
talking to the Evil Capitalist, who has had like a half minute of
screentime at this point. Either they radically edited his part down
or else they just felt they needed an Evil Capitalist in the movie,
introduced him, and figured their job was done. Personally, I’d bet
there was an earlier draft of the script where he played a much bigger
- Back to Hamilton’s place for a, ugh,
wistful romantic scene between Hamilton and Brosnan. (Because he’s
about to leave town, get it?) Boring! Where’s that darn volcano,
- Luckily, this is interrupted by the
emergence of contaminated water from Hamilton’s tap. In response,
the couple heads up to check the town reservoir. (Hamilton has the
keys – the only time when her being the mayor really comes into
play.) Needless to say, the water supply is tainted by volcanic
activity. This allows Brosnan to wake his boss and snidely note that
"I’ve got the ‘scientific’ evidence you need." Yeah,
take that, Mr. Empiricist!
- Hamilton’s mother-in-law, when
contacted, states her intention to stay put. Apparently she’s the
film’s Beloved Yet Crustily Stubborn Old Person Who Refuses to Leave
Their Home (and Pays the Ultimate Price). Who’d have thought?
- Having concluded this brief
conversation, Hamilton notes that nothing can be done to save Grandma,
triggering protests by her kids. (How about sending the cops up there
to evacuate the old bag by force?) Hamilton then goes to attend a town
meeting, telling the kids to stay put at home. Could they possibly
telegraph this any more? Hmm, stubborn beloved Grandma up on the
mountain, concerned kids left unattended – where could this all be
- At the town meeting, the Evil Capitalist
prepares to make his escape, "before it all hits the fan."
Why, he just cares about himself! How typical of an Evil Capitalist!
Boy, that guy’s toast. (I’d like to point out that they haven’t
even bothered to make him responsible for the eruption or, really,
anything. Nope, he’s a Capitalist, and that’s enough, even if he’s
had roughly forty seconds of screentime up ‘til now.)
- Just now the rumblings start, triggering
an earthquake. Hmm, maybe herding the entire population of the town
into a single building wasn’t such a great idea.
- This also sets up the obligatory
Frenzied Mass Stampede, featuring the de rigueur Guy Being Trampled In
the Panic. Outside, a gigantic plume of ash is erupting from the
volcano. Finally! The mass destruction we’ve all been waiting for!
- I know this is only a movie. But I’ll
always be haunted by the image of that pink stuffed bunny falling from
the window ledge.
- Speaking via radio, the Boss admits that
Brosnan was right and he was wrong. (Take that, ‘Science’!) Yep,
they’re setting up a Noble, Redemptive Death alright.
- One of roads out of town turns out to
be, invariably, a collapsible concrete overpass. (Why? IITS.) Is this
standard in mountain communities in the upper Northwest?
- Good thing that Hamilton’s in the
truck with Brosnan. Otherwise, who would react to a nearby building
toppling over by saying, "Watch out!"?
- This ride through the collapsing town,
by the way, has Theme Park Ride all over it.
- OK, buildings collapsing, power lines
and sparking transformers falling down, billboard signs pitching over,
gas station catching fire…yeah, I think that’s everything.
- Somebody *really* must have liked
the effect of seeing Hamilton’s reflection ghosted on the window
that she’s looking out of.
- Oops, forgot one, it’s the ‘driving
against traffic’ shot.
- Making it to Hamilton’s house, they
find *gasp* that the kids have gone to get Grandma! Who knew?
- Here comes that greedy helicopter pilot,
offering to fly people out through the extremely heavy falling ash for
$15,000 a head, in cash. Exactly why anyone would be carrying this
ample sum around is left unexplained. (Remember that the eruption came
out of nowhere.) It’s like the plethora of trunks the passengers
brought on that three-hour tour in Gilligan’s Island.
- Concerned Boss, seeing the helicopter
lift off: "If he gets any of that ash sucked up into his engine,
he’s had it!" (Three guesses what happens next.) Apparently
this is the sort of universe where a seismologist knows that the
ash-in-the-engine thing is bad, but a professional helicopter pilot
- Did you know that it’s OK to be
driving directly in front of a crashing helicopter? It’s true.
Because when a helicopter smashes nose first into the ground, it’ll
bounce back up into the air, fly over your vehicle, re-land and then
explode in a big fireball.
- When driving through a heavy sheet of
volcanic ash, you will barely be able to see three feet in front of
you, but can clearly see the road becoming blocked by debris in the
distance behind you.
- When a volcano starts to erupt,
dedicated seismologists will station themselves directly in the
imminent zone of destruction and not attempt to flee until the very
last second. This, apparently, is standard procedure, given what
occurred in the beginning of the picture.
- When the Boss orders his subordinates to
flee, inspirational music swells and they refuse to go. Gee, that’s
- Brosnan tries to get the others to leave
while speaking to them over their walkie-talkies. His gives out, and
one of them theorizes that his batteries have gone dead. This means
that Brosnan, the one guy certain that an eruption was imminent, not
only failed to check vital equipment, but didn’t even bother to
store obvious supplies like extra batteries in his truck. Smart guy.
- Grandma’s dog has run off into the
woods, but of course we’ll see it again later. A mass market film
like this can’t even imply the death of a dog, even if it’s
- Fun facts: Humans can outrun tons of
molten lava rolling downhill, and get quite close to rivers of the
stuff without suffering ill effect. Apparently lava must touch you to
do you harm. This, uh, novel theory will be confirmed numerous times
- OK, there’s this whole scene here that
really doesn’t work at all, and in a number of different respects.
Their truck destroyed, Brosnan, Hamilton, Grandma and the kids escape
the lava flow by taking a boat across the lake. The boy notices that
all the fish are dead and floating in the water. Then Brosnan sees
that the bottom of their aluminum boat is smoking. Soon water is
leaking through. The "volcanic activity," we’re told, has
turned the water into acid. The weird thing is that the floating fish
were shown to be entirely intact in the same moments that the acid is
eating through their metal boat.
- Also, Hamilton isn’t exactly earning
any genius points here. Upon hearing the water-into-acid thing, she
looks at the dissolving bottom of the boat and puts it all together.
"Acid eats metal!" she gasps. I assume that they wrote this
line into the script in case we didn’t ‘get’ how the ‘acid
lake’ and ‘dissolving boat’ things were connected. Well, guess
what, we did, and it just makes our Heroine look like a moron to have
her ‘explain’ this exotic property of acid.
- Meanwhile, I can’t help noticing that
when we look at the acidic water leaking into the boat, it seems to be
filling up much, much quicker than it does when the water level is off
camera. (This is like how a bomb’s digital readout slows way down
whenever the camera isn’t looking at it.)
- Soon the outboard motor’s propeller is
completely, and I mean completely, dissolved away. Brosnan begins to
row the boat to shore with his hand (yeah, that’ll work), ‘protected’
by his wrapping his jacket around it. The ability of Brosnan to move
this water-laden boat holding five people through the water by
paddling with one hand is truly impressive.
- Eventually Grandma jumps into the acidic
water and tows the boat the last few yards to the shore. See, she had
to die because
- She’s the reason the heroes and the
kids are in danger.
- This is the script’s designated ‘tragic’
death. Every disaster movie needs one, you know. It’s a union
- Oddly, her immersion results in
(eventually) fatal burns, even though Brosnan paddled away for some
time without sustaining any burns whatsoever. So here’s a helpful
survival hint: When sticking your body into highly corrosive liquids,
a wrapped jacket supplies better protection than a pair of jeans.
- In an unintentional comic highlight,
Grandma leaves the boat at the end of a dock and continues screaming
and wading through the water until she reaches shore. This despite the
fact that she could have saved herself much agony by just clambering
onto the pier.
- Meanwhile, while she has sustained
wounds that will eventually prove fatal, her clothes remain largely
intact. So the lesson is, I guess, that acid quickly eats through
metal and flesh (well, human flesh, not fish flesh), but has a lot
more problem with cloth.
- Cut to morning. We’re back in town,
which is covered in ash. The National Guard is arriving. We still have
a half hour left, and the town is still standing, so I’d guess the
big fireworks are still to come. Meanwhile, I can’t help noticing
that they never resolved the ‘Evil Capitalist’ thing. Last seen,
he was selfishly preparing to leave town, leading me to expect a big
‘that’ll serve him’ death scene. Unless he was supposed to be in
the helicopter that crashed – the interior shots before the crash
were so poorly blocked that you couldn’t really see who was in it.
On the other hand, I don’t know who else would have had the $15,000
in cash that the pilot was demanding. Actually, come to think of it, I’m
not sure why EC would have it either. Do rich people generally carry
around tens of thousands of dollars worth of mad money? Anyway, it’s
obvious that he was a bigger character at some point, but if they
decided to cut him down this much, why did they even keep him in the
movie? He didn’t serve any plot function.
- Back in the woods, Grandma is finally
kicking the bucket. Unfortunately for us, she proves tougher than
Richard Harris in Tarzan the Ape Man. Well, OK, maybe not that
tough. In any case, she does have time for a tearful and long-winded
deathbed rapprochement with Hamilton before kicking off. This is all
as nauseatingly and artificially maudlin as you’d expect, and the
unabashed milking of the crying children doesn’t help any. People,
have you no shame?
- Next on the menu is a flood, the result
of snow on nearby mountaintops finally (?) starting to melt.
Unsurprisingly, the remaining exit out of town is a bridge that lies
over the increasingly swollen river. Here the seismologists finally
decide to get out of Dodge. As in Earthquake, the film treats
us to a collapsing dam sequence and we watch as the cascade of water
heads downstream. Gee, I wonder if the Boss will make it out alive, or
instead die ensuring that the others escape?
- Brosnan, Hamilton and the kids come
across a truck, which Brosnan promptly hot wires. Has there ever been
a group of people in a movie which didn’t contain somebody who knew
how to do this?
- Oops, the Boss is stuck on the bridge,
which is in imminent danger of being swept away. (This is after he
rammed the car in front of him, freeing it so that it could escape.)
As the other team members watch in horror, he’s washed away. Man, I
didn’t see that coming! Oh, wait. I did see that coming.
- Back to Brosnan and company. Having done
the ‘melting boat in the acid lake’ thing, it’s now time for the
‘driving the truck over the barely crusted-over lava’ sequence. I’m
telling you, this whole movie was written with a theme park ride in
- Anyone who wondered if they get mired
down in the lava and spin their tires and then manage to break loose at
the very last possible second, give yourself two points. (This
shouldn’t be confused with the earlier sequence where Brosnan and
Hamilton forded the river in his truck, and it got mired down in the
river bed, and they spun their tires and then managed to break loose
at the very last possible second.)
- Yep, there’s Grandma’s missing dog,
right on cue. Give me two points.
- Finding themselves trapped on the wrong
side of the river, Brosnan runs into the hotel room holding the team’s
abandoned equipment. Their organization must have a pretty healthy
budget, seeing that they flee at the last minute while leaving their
computers and stuff behind. Still, the left-behind monitors allow
Brosnan to see that the last, supery-dupery eruption is only minutes
- Brosnan then grabs, that’s right, the
previously established ELF unit. This he will no doubt use to signal
the other seismologists as to his whereabouts.
- OK, let’s be fair here. The big,
show-shopping eruption now occurs, with the ash laden shock wave
pulverizing the surrounding forest and then the town. Despite the
sometimes obvious miniature work, it’s a pretty cool bit. The only
silly element is the obligatory manner in which the Heroes’ truck is
able to stay just ahead of the wave of destruction.
- Eventually they drive into (duh) the
previously established Abandoned Mineshaft. Here they are protected
from destruction but trapped. This inevitably leads to our 47th danger
sequence, wherein the mineshaft begins to collapse.
- They head deeper into the mine. Here
Brosnan realizes that he left the ELF device in the truck. After an
inspirational speech (gag) he heads back to retrieve it.
However, a rockslide seals him off from the others. Then a second rock
fall breaks his arm. He manages to get into the truck when yet more
falling rocks trap him in the vehicle. Mashed into the remaining space
and with the weight of the rocks threatening to crush him (yeah, that’ll
happen) he manages to start the ELF by kicking at it. This alerts the
team and Brosnan is eventually rescued. Although if I’m
understanding this properly, no one had noticed the blinking signal
light for "a day or two." Yeah, quite the bunch of brainiacs.
- After all this, they have the gall to
milk the fate of Hamilton and the kids, and, of course, the dog.
Needless to say, they all make it out alive, to a tremendous swell of
music and a big hug and a passionate live affirming *yawn* kiss
between our romantic leads. And so ends Dante’s Peak, the
much more intelligent of 1997’s competing volcano flicks.
On to our second feature.
While I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of material I found
whilst viewing Dante’s Peak, it is rather Volcano that
inspired this piece. This one I saw in the theaters, and while it’s no
Jabootu Special, it contained enough jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud
stupidity to stay in the back of my mind whenever article writing time
came along. Again, we would probably be better served if Liz, or anyone
with a firmer grasp on scientific principle (not at all my strong suit)
were writing this article. Still, I’ll do my best. Rest assured, there’s
undoubtedly plenty of stuff to mock here that I’m missing.
10 Things (and more) I Hate
- Anne Heche plays a scientist. Let me
repeat: ANNE HECHE plays a SCIENTIST.
- As with Pierce Brosnan’s dead
wife/lover/whatever, lead Tommy Lee Jones is assigned a ‘humanizing’
characteristic so as to – supposedly -- enhance audience empathy.
(This also allows Jones to pretend that he’s playing an actual
character here and not shamelessly wasting his talents for a big
paycheck.) Therefore, he’s given Kelly, a *surprise* Mildly
Rebellious Teenaged Daughter, to deal with.
- Actually, it’s interesting to see how
obviously the obligatory character elements of Dante’s Peak
are reshuffled here. Again, points can be given this film for
splitting Brosnan’s duel roles betwixt the two leads. Here Heche *snort*
is the scientist and Jones performs the Action Hero heavy lifting.
Jones, meanwhile, assumes many of the traits of Hamilton’s character
in Dante’s Peak. He supplies, through Kelly, the obligatory
Endangered Loved One Who Must be Dramatically Saved, as well as being
the divorced person who learns to love again. He’s also, like
Hamilton, the one with an official position of authority (see below),
although his job is rather more relevant to events here than Hamilton’s
mayoralty proved to be.
- The character similarities continue.
Jones, like Brosnan, is provided with a boss (or co-worker) who
resists his interpretation of events, but is redeemed via a heroic
death. Also like Dante’s Peak, the movie sports a wealthy
white man guy is written into the script as to provide a human
antagonist. And, exactly as in that film, they must have eventually
realized that he served no real purpose, and cut his part down to the
point where you wonder why he was even in the film.
- However, while Heche’s presence in
this film is somewhat more justified than Hamilton’s in Dante’s
Peak, it does set up an all-too typical Slightly Creepy
May/December Romance Situation. Jones has to be, conservatively,
twenty years older than Heche, who also comes across as much too young
(among other things) to be such a hotshot scientist.
- Jones plays the head of the Office of
Emergency Management for Los Angeles, where our volcano eventually
erupts. An introductory crawl explains that, during emergencies, this
luminary commands "all the resources of the city." I guess
this is to make Jones’ eventual taking of command ‘believable,’
although a state of emergency is never seen officially declared –
which I’d assume would be necessary before the head of OEM could
assume power. Not that it matters, because Jones basically just
browbeats everyone into doing what he says anyway.
- It should be noted that this is more of
a traditional Disaster Movie than Dante’s Peak. Note the
urban setting, allowing for much grander displays of death and
destruction. Indeed, the body count in DP was surprisingly low,
something which can’t be said here. Of course, it’s much more
realistic to posit an exploding volcano in rural Washington state, ala
Mount St. Helens, than in downtown Los Angeles, and the film took
quite a beating on these grounds. Still, Volcano does provide
more spectacle, which probably accounts for its somewhat larger box
- As I noted in my Swarm review,
you can’t really do those ‘superstar cast’ movies anymore. The
talent just costs too much. Therefore we go from one actual star,
Tommy Lee Jones, to then possible up ‘n comer Anne Heche, directly
to such low radar co-stars as Gaby Hoffman, Don Cheadle and Keith
David. In fact, the most recognizable face other than Jones and
perhaps Heche is bit player John "Northern Exposure"
Corbett. And that’s only because I went through the film thinking he
was Noah Wyle.
- The movie opens in pretty boring
fashion. Typical Los Angeles street scenes are intercut with ‘shock’
underground lava shots. A street protest pitting White Yuppies against
Working Class Latinos over a subway extension is briefly established,
setting up one of the film’s more odious and laughable sub-plots.
Then we cut to Jones cooking eggs for Kelly, the Disrespectful Teenage
Daughter Who He Really Doesn’t Understand. Unsurprisingly, the
daughter scorns eating breakfast. After all, we have to establish
tension between the two, so that their eventual reconciliation is
- Even more predictably, the Jones
household includes the inevitable Lovable Shaggy Pooch.
- Men, of course, are comically hopeless
in the kitchen. So Jones first burns his hand on the griddle and then
spills the eggs on the floor (ho ho) and orders the dog to ‘clean up’
the mess. He’s just such a guy, isn’t he? At least they
didn’t do that thing where he dumps a whole box of laundry detergent
into the washer and the house fills with subs. Meanwhile, this head of
the Office of Emergency Management leaves the presumably red hot
flying pan on the carpet, where it somehow singes neither the rug or
the dog eating the eggs spilling from it.
- Being a Disaster Movie, we have a number
of *cough* characters we’ll be following. So we cut to an
inner city hospital. (We know it’s inner city because they’re
wheeling in a young black gunshot victim.) Here we meet Jaye, a heroic
doctor who we know is Good because
- She’s a woman.
- She’s of Asian, i.e., minority
- She works in a ‘people’s’
hospital, not some Rich White Folks’ hospital.
- A nurse -- in the middle of performing
triage on the gunshot victim! -- looks at Jaye’s wristwatch and asks
"Is that a Rolex?" This is confirmed by another nurse, who
notes "Hubby’s big on anniversaries." This is the kind of
clunky, blink-and-you-miss-it exposition that substitutes for
characterization in these things. It informs us that
- Jaye’s married.
- Her’s husband’s rich.
- He’s shallower than his wife,
because he gave her such a materialistic gift.
- It’s their anniversary, providing
additional ‘pathos’ when the fireworks begin later.
- This all confirms again the
saintliness of Jaye, since she obviously doesn’t have to work in
The People’s Hospital, and is doing so purely out of choice.
- You might think that I’m making much
ado out of nothing here. I think not. This is the sort of transparent,
silly scripting that allows some of the wealthiest and most pampered
individuals in the history of our planet to pretend that they are
still ‘progressive.’ And believe me, this film in particular reeks
of such smugness. It should come to no one’s surprise, therefore,
when Hubby turns out to be white, in accordance with the above ‘materialistic’
- Said *cough* ‘political’
content is quickly confirmed. In the aftermath of our first Portent of
Things to Come tremor, two (white) policemen arrive at a black
neighborhood to investigate a fender bender. One of the involved
drivers is white, and, of course, a racist, asking the officers to
"drive us back to civilization." Meanwhile, racial tensions
are immediately manifested between a Proud Black Man Who’s Not Going
to Take it Any More and a Racist White Cop. We’re going to see a lot
of such stuff here. It’s this (along with the much more laughable
handling of the volcano) that makes the film so much lamer than Dante’s
Peak. Larding this two-dimensional, scolding and unreflective ‘message’
stuff onto the film’s lightweight scaffolding only serves to push it
over into the unintended comedy realm. Moreover, the filmmakers’
evident conceit that, unlike Dante’s Peak, their movie
is Saying Something is simultaneously laughable and deeply tiresome.
- We cut to the construction crew of the
controversial subway extension. In one of the film’s more honestly
(if modestly) amusing bits, the crew is laying down bets over the
soon-to-be revealed epicenter of the quake. The crew chief, meanwhile,
is ‘comically’ seen chewing several pieces of nicotine gum and
prominently wearing a nicotine patch behind his ear. Thus we know that
he’ll play a larger part in our movie, since they wouldn’t have
wasted this ‘characterization’ otherwise.
- On to the California Institute of
Geological Sciences, from which the earthquake data will be released.
A Nervous Female Scientist is panicking about appearing in front of
the assembled press. Then, to her vast relief, the wise-cracking Anne
Heche (who plays a scientist! A scientist!) arrives to take
over. This provides Heche with a minor introductory Hero Moment while
also establishing her ‘fearless’ credentials. She quickly scans
the info and drops the sheet to the floor -- ‘hotshot’ credentials
-- and *ahem* masterfully begins the conference.
- Feeling the quake, Jones goes into work,
despite his daughter’s protests that he’s supposed to be on
vacation. The Office of Emergency Management sports a vaguely
futuristic workspace which manages to look rather more like a movie
set than an actual governmental office. Jones is berated by Cheadle,
his second-in-command, for coming in over such a minor affair. This
(sort of) works to establish Jones as a workaholic, which presumably
ended his marriage, but also shows him to be a take-charge individual.
Jones and Cheadle engage in some faux "I didn’t want you taking
my job" banter. However, this is all punctuated with the
characters ostentatiously laughing, thus letting us know that this is
merely a ‘bit’ between co-workers who respect and, yes, love each
other, although in a manly platonic fashion of course.
- We cut to the city’s MacArthur Park,
where no doubt a cake will be later melting in the lava. A Public
Works crew is checking out an underground gas line. The guys staying
up by the truck are, meanwhile, being jocularly hassled by a (*sigh*)
sassy black woman who works for the Parks department. Suddenly, yellow
gas erupts from the tunnel entrance, and a hand ‘dramatically’
reaches out in agony. Thus arrives our first Obligatory Mysterious
Deaths. The guy is pulled out, revealing that the others were
"burned up" before passing out. At this he rolls over,
showing us that while the side of his face we had seen was normal
looking, the other side *gasp* has the appearance of a hot dog
left on the grill too long.
- Hearing of the deaths, Jones promptly
makes the scene. His appearance annoys the head of Public Works, who
just wants to gloss over the incident. Clearly, this fellow will be in
the camp of Those Who Don’t Want to Hear the Truth, also notably on
display in Dante’s Peak. Nicotine Patch Guy shows up (told
you!) and immediately displays his irritation at seeing Public Works
Guy, signaling us that he’s in the ‘Good’ camp. Jones wants NPG,
who I guess runs the city’s public transportation, to temporarily
stop running the subway trains in this area. NPG isn’t sure about
that, meaning that he’ll be what the Boss was in Dante’s Peak:
The basically good guy who Learns Too Late that the heroes were right,
and thus has to redeem himself with a tragic but heroic death.
- Cut to the hospital, where Jaye is,
needless to say, working on the scalded public works guy. Life’s a
rich tapestry, isn’t it? Just so we know that the Evil Public Works
Chief was wrong when he said that steam caused the accident (duh),
Jaye notes that "Steam doesn’t char clothing like this!"
Thanks. Hey, maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t steam, but related to the
volcano. You know, the one mentioned in the title! Now it’s all
- Jones, Cheadle and Another Guy appear at
the manhole where the accident occurred. Cheadle is complaining that
they could get into trouble for this, as the accident as explained
falls under PW jurisdiction. Jones, of course, is more interested in
The Truth than Sordid Politics. (Wow!) Cheadle waits in the
truck while Jones and Another Guy don yellow moon suits. As they enter
the tunnel, loud ‘breathing’ noises are foleyed in and they wave
flashlights whose beams cut through the mist, so that it’s as much
like the ‘Finding the Mysterious Spaceship’ scene in Alien
- Jones is in contact with Cheadle via a
radio headphone. (We’re supposed to be impressed that Jones, the OEM
department head, is personally risking danger instead of sending his
subordinates in. See, that’s just the kind of guy he is.) Jones
continues the ‘you want my job’ stuff, cruelly informing us that
this will constitute a ‘running’ ‘joke.’
- As they walk down the tunnel, rats are
shown scurrying past them, rather like the birds who took flight just
before the skinny dippers got it in Dante’s Peak. Animals.
They always know.
- As Our Hero Risks Death Searching for
The Truth, Cheadle relays a call from the Chief of Police (?!),
complaining that this is a Public Works matter (so why is the Chief of
Pol…oh, never mind). Of course, Jones continues on anyway. What a
- Jones and Another Guy enter the length
of tunnel past where the workers were fried. Here, a veritable forest
of roots hang from the tunnel ceiling. Remember this.
- Just in case this wasn’t enough like Alien
or Aliens (I’ll say!), Another Guy holds up a beeping monitor
and shouts, "We’ve got a reading here!" Where do
they get their ideas?
- Here they find a smoking fissure in the
tunnel. A nearby subway train (if only they’d listened to Our Hero!)
rumbles nearby, triggering a disturbance from the fissure. The ‘heat
monitor’ shows increased activity, and our hero’s rubber air hoses
start melting. (!!) Good thing they’re both so tough. They both
start running away, and they make it through the hatchway just at
the last moment in front of a burst of fire. Now, here’s where
we get to the roots I mentioned. If giant fire balls are periodically
cascading down this tunnel, why haven’t the profusion of roots been
- We cut to the Le Brea Tar Pits. Here we
hear a recorded spiel about the Pits given nearby, noting that
"The Le Brea Tar pits are one of the LA Basin’s most active
geological features." Those who guessed that this will have
direct relevance to our ‘plot’ should give themselves a gold star.
Just in case we failed to ‘get’ this, though, the camera zooms in
as the water in the Pits starts to boil.
- We cut to a newly completed looking
apartment building. An expository radio report (what a clever device!)
names it’s developer as one Norman Caulder. Jaye arrives in order to
meet with Norman, who will prove to be her Rolex-giving husband. Life’s
a rich tapestry, isn’t it? As she approaches him, we note that the
interiors of the building are entirely unfinished. This rather calls
into question the assertion of the radio report that the building will
open "this week." (!!)
- Her husband turns around and is revealed
to be the White Yuppie who selfishly demonstrated against the subway
extension for The Poor. Well, you knew a guy who would give his wife a
Rolex had to be a snake. As he gloats over his building (what a White
Guy!), we can only wonder if his wife will leave him because he’s
insufficiently progressive; or whether the disaster will force him to
consider what’s important and he’ll ‘grow,’ you know, in a
social conscious sense. Either way, the fact that they introduce a
spiffy new building (and designated Symbol of Hubris) in a disaster
movie doesn’t exactly bode well for it’s future. Feel free to
insert your own ‘Edifice Wrecks’ joke here.
- Looking out from their soon-to-be
penthouse apartment, Norman says "Here’s how I see our
future." (What a Typically Controlling White Guy!) This, needless
to say, involves Jaye transferring to a Rich White Guy’s hospital.
You know, it really demoralizing how much they telegraph all this
- Just so we don’t miss the "He’s
a controlling jerk" thing, he commands that he doesn’t want
"my wife treating gunshot wounds." Get it? It’s like she’s
not even a person! Instead, she’s just "my wife." What
nuance! (Needless to say, we can count on Jaye not to allow him to
compromise either her Personal Autonomy or her Social Conscious.)
"Finished?" she asks. As the camera cuts to a full shot of
the building; again, the Very Symbol of His Hubris (I don’t want you
to miss that part), he answers. "Hardly. This is only the
beginning." OK, this guy’s toast.
- Now *groan* for some character
stuff. See, it’s important that we ‘care’ about our characters,
so that we really fear for them when they’re in ‘danger.’ So we
cut to Jones’ daughter and his neighbor, who is babysitting her. The
daughter listens to rock music, the neighbor does yoga. (Ha! Those
Californians, eh?) They’re the original Odd Couple! Jones checks in
via the phone and sighs over his daughter’s wish for a *snort,
giggle* nose ring. Why, he’d rather go to Disney World! They’re
the original Odd Couple! Then Jones gets a hectoring call from his
ex-wife over his going to work. Doesn’t she understand that a Man’s
gotta do what a Man’s gotta do? You know, it worked, though. I kid,
but now I find myself deeply caring about Jones and his daughter. I
hope they make it through the movie alive and reconcile. Really! I do!
- Enter Anne Heche -- playing a scientist!
-- arguing with Nicotine Patch Guy. Only Jones, I think we can safely
assume, will honor her Feminine Strength and Instincts. (Men, like
Brosnan in Dante’s Peak, rely on their ‘gut.’ Women, in
contrast, use intuition. Please keep that straight.) NPG introduces
her sarcastically, putting her title (Dr.) in those verbal
parentheses. Yep, he’s toast. Jones asks if they could save their
fight for later. "Yeah, sure," Heche says, looking at her
watch. "2:00 okay?" What a spitfire! Why, she doesn’t take
guff from anybody! Jones, meanwhile, breaks up at this display of her
rapier wit, suggesting that he doesn’t get out much.
- Proving again that he’s this movie’s
analog for Dante’s Peak’s Boss, NPG refuses to shut down
subway service because, get this, he wants ‘evidence’ that’s
something going on. When he asks if they have any of this so-called
‘evidence,’ our leads can only shake their heads in derision. When
will they learn? When both the Hero and Heroine of a movie want
you to do something, Buster, you’d better do it!
- I don’t want to beat this to death,
but did you ever notice that when a scientist is the lead character in
a film, they’re usually exhorting others to ignore or stop seeking
scientific proof? Invariably, they demand that others respect their
intuitions, even if (especially if) they’re done this before and
been proven wrong. Meanwhile, if you’re the antagonist, you can have
all the proof in the world on your side, and the film will still treat
you like a fool or a villain for ignoring and/or opposing the heroes.
- Heche, along with Jones and the
previously established Nervous Female Scientist, go to MacArthur Park
to see what’s going on. NFS now seems to be functioning as Heche’s
sidekick, and I think we all know what that means. Heche notes
that the park’s lake has heated six degrees in twelve hours, which
would require a "geological event." Jones asks what this
means, allowing for some exposition about tectonic plates and basic
earthquake theory, as if the audience cares. You know, even if people
don’t know why volcanoes and earthquakes occur, they know they
happen. Therefore, this exposition is useless, and amounts to the
screenwriter showing off the extensive knowledge he gleaned from
looking up various geological terms in the World Book Encyclopedia.
- Now comes my absolute favorite line in
the movie, and one of the best ever. Jones, head of the Office of
Emergency Management in the second largest city in the country – and
the most earthquake prone – listens to Heche’s basic Earth science
lecture. Confused by her jargon, he asks her to explain what ‘magma’
is. (!!!) Aside from the fact that any fifth grader would have at
least a vague idea what magma is, again, this is the guy who deals
with emergencies for the city of Los Angeles! Wouldn’t that
require some knowledge of how the Earth works, especially given
the plethora of earthquakes there? (Not to mention even the most
elementary grasp of science.) I don’t think anyone who ever saw this
movie failed to laugh out loud when he asked this.
- Jones heads off, but not before ordering
Heche and company to stay out of the tunnel, because it’s so
dangerous. Needless to say, Heche and Nervous Female Scientist, now
obviously graduating to full Red Shirt status, will go down anyway. We
know that NFS will prove a Red Shirt because her death will
- provide our first full-fledged ‘Tragic
- make Heche pay a price for ignoring
- This would no doubt drive Liz up the
wall, since Heche is doing exactly what Jones did early, i.e.,
ignoring orders and going into the tunnel. (Note that Jones’
seemingly expendable sidekick didn’t die.) Also, why did Jones call
in experts if he’s not going to let them do anything but theorize
from woefully incomplete data? Of course, Heche has already
corrected posited the ‘lava’ thing from this spotty datum, but
that’s what Heroes and Heroines do.
- First, though, they have NFS/Red Shirt
explicitly mention Jones and Heche’s mutual attraction, in case we
somehow failed to just assume that film’s Hero and Heroine would end
- Cut to early the next morning, as we
watch a first batch of workers get on a subway train. (Uh oh!)
Meanwhile, per their plan, Heche and Red Shirt have snuck into the
tunnel, coming early so as to avoid the cops. Here we get another ‘moon
suits and flashlights’ scene. Heche pauses to examine her failing
flashlight (nobody ever checks their batteries in movies) while Red
Shirt continues on to find the fissure, which she, I swear, straddles.
Now, I don’t want to telegraph anything, but we just saw the subway
train begin its route, and earlier a passing train triggered the
fireball that chased Jones out of the tunnel. So you don’t exactly
have to be Einstein to see where this is going.
- Oops, I guess they thought the subway
thing was too subtle. We cut out to the desert and see some birds fly
suddenly fly off from some hardscrabble bush. (They always know.) And,
yes, then the ground starts to shake real good. This is our first real
‘disaster’ scene, albeit a minor one. We see the city’s power go
out. An awakening Jones grabs his daughter and they stand under a
doorway. Furniture falls in Norman and Jaye’s bedroom. Rubble blocks
and assaults the subway train. And, of course, the fissure goes ‘whoosh’
and there goes Red Shirt. Oh, the Humanity.
- We cut to Jones’ car. He’s driving
into work and phoning Cheadle for an update. Per movie tradition, when
Jones is done talking on the phone, he hangs up without saying
anything. Both parties magically know that the conversation has come
to an end.
- Actually, and don’t ask me why, but
Jones merely (apparently) put his car phone on speaker mode. Because
even though Jones doesn’t say anything after putting the phone down,
and acts like the call is over, when the manhole covers in the street
explode upward all around him, Cheadle can hear the noise on the
- Jones just happens to drive past the Le
Brea Tar Pits, where the actual eruption is starting to take place.
Big hunks of lava start flying around, exploding on impact and setting
huge fires. (See the ‘goofs’ section on this film entry in the
Internet Movie Database for info on why this and other phenomena in
the film are scientifically invalid.)
- Here we see Heche finally making it out
of the tunnel, allowing her a short and not-terribly-affecting
"Oh, woe, my friend is dead!" scene. Oscar clip!
- Back at Subway Central, Nicotine Patch
Guy learns of the stranded train and orders a team get ready to go
down there. Then he reaches for a cigarette and lights up. Now, this
‘I sure picked the wrong day to give up cigarettes’ schtick had
already been famously parodied to death in Airplane!, made seventeen
years before Volcano. Nor is there any indication that this
is a winking reference to that movie. Here’s a clue to future makers
of disaster pictures: Study Airplane! (and The Big Bus,
while you’re at it) and avoid those clichés that it already mocked.
- Meanwhile, on the subway train, the
passengers are trapped and the temperature is rising do to proximity
to the MacArthur Park fissure. The doors won’t open because, as we’re
shown, the hydraulic lines are cut. Don’t they have a manual system
to get the doors open? An emergency door or window or hatch?
- We cut to Jaye driving through the heavy
ash (I’ve sure seen a lot of this stuff lately). Now, readers might
remember me laughing about when actors react unrealistically to
effects that were later superimposed onto the screen. This isn’t
really the actors’ fault, since they don’t actually ‘see’ what
they are reacting to. For instance, in The Swarm, Michael Caine
cries "Look!" and points to the sky. When we cut there, we
see that the sky is blotted out by a massive swarm of bees. This doesn’t
strike one as the sort of thing one has to point at. Here’s a
similar bit. Jaye is driving along. Soon we are shown a gigantic,
brightly lit pillar of ash and lava shooting way up into the sky. This
is a massive thing. Yet Jaye doesn’t ‘see’ and react to it until
well after she would have. Imagine a Godzilla movie where
someone didn’t see him until they were about twenty feet away. This
is the director and editor’s fault and looks really goofy. Moreover,
this will happen again later.
- Cut back to Heche, still ‘dramatically’
mourning. Hilariously, she is framed in the searchlight beam of a
helicopter that for no reason is hovering above her. She then notices
the fall of ash and spots a monstrous tower of ash from what must be
miles away. Again, though, Jaye didn’t see this until she was maybe
a block away from it.
- Driving around, Jones sees Jaye
attending to the victim of a lava bomb and jumps out to help. Life’s
a rich tapestry, isn’t it?
- This bit, with people running around
trying to help, is one of the film’s genuine highlights, culminating
in a nice bit (although, again, too obviously telegraphed) where all
the noise of the eruption abruptly ceases. This proves the calm before
the storm in more ways than one, however, as the actual eruption of a
gigantic creeping flow of lava now begins. It’s here that the movie
loses whatever credibility it’s enjoyed up to now.
- For instance, as when Jaye didn’t see
the ash tower, a post-production effect of a huge tower of lava is
shown fountaining up from the La Brea Tar Pits. The effect is ruined,
however, by the fact that, in the foreground and roughly ten yards
from the gigantic geyser of molten rock, we watch numerous cars
driving along down the road. The idea that you would drive anywhere
near this thing is noticeably insane.
- I also like when the windows of a tower
explode outward, showering Jones and Jaye with glass shards. Now, even
if this was safety glass, given the acceleration it’s been given by
the explosion (or merely from gravity as it falls from the upper
floors) it should slice them to bits. However, the characters appear
entirely unscathed. Kids: Don’t try this at home!
- As lava flows from the Pits, a reporter
vainly tries to explain the phenomena without using the terms ‘lava’
or ‘volcano.’ It’s like that board game where you try to depict
something without using the provided list of descriptive words.
"It’s coming right up out of the ground itself," he notes
in a bewildered fashion, although he doesn’t explain exactly where
else it would come from. "It’s like the tar caught fire and
melted and somehow expanded," he continues, as a small river of
molten rock gushes forth into the street. Since the flow of lava looks
exactly like a, well, flow of lava, we can’t quite understand why he’s
having this much trouble describing the scene. Finally, though, he
gets it. "It almost looks like lava," he exclaims. Give that
man a cigar.
- One reason the film falls apart here is
that, much more than in Dante’s Peak, it utterly ignores the
amount of heat that would emanate from literally millions of gallons
of molten lava. People are continuously shown standing on the very
edge of a literal lake of the stuff without ill effect, while objects
don’t catch fire unless they are actually enveloped. This is a
constant of the film from here on, and never ceases to destroy our
suspension of disbelief.
- Jones’ daughter, caught between the
oncoming river of lava and a fallen lava bomb, can only stand and yell
and wait for Daddy to come get her. Now, I mean, I understand panic,
but come on. She had plenty of time to escape from her position,
especially given the bizarre thermal dynamics of this batch of lava.
This is emphasized when the lava bomb spurts a hunk of actual lava
that flies right onto her, which then only serves to set fire to her
- Here’s another example. By the time
the pants are put out, Jones and daughter are mere feet away from a
river (there’s no other word) of lava, yet are uneffected when they
should literally be bursting into flames. One wonders how the actors
felt when they saw the completed film and witnessed how stupid all
- In an extremely gross bit, a fireman
trapped in his crashed truck is immolated by the advancing lava flow,
as is a guy trying to save him. I know that you expect to see some
audience pleasing death scenes in a disaster movie, but yuck! I think
I’ll stick with other kinds of disasters from now on. Also, I don’t
know if the toy fireman we see mounted on the truck and exploding into
flames is meant to be satirical or instead symbolic, but it’s
tasteless either way.
- Has there ever been a Urban Disaster
Movie that didn’t include a close-up shot of a truck baring a
"flammable propane" legend. Well, this isn’t it. Boom!
- One mark of a bad movie is when they
blow a bit that is almost impossible to blow. Jones sends his daughter
off with Jaye to the hospital (the lava that spurted on her leg – or
the resultant pants fire -- has caused a small second-degree burn).
Scared, she wants to stay with her father. When he explains that
overseeing the disaster scene is his responsibility, she tearfully
cries "So am I!" Although the remark strikes home, he sends
them off. Because Jones and the girl actually act here, it’s a
touching bit. However, the camera cuts between Jones and his
hysterical daughter for much too long of a time, while overly
manipulative music swells up on the soundtrack. The film’s director,
Mick Jackson (who took a "A Mick Jackson Film" credit for
this crap) refuses to credit his audience with any intelligence or
sensitivity, and beats us over the head with every point he’s trying
- We cut know to a river of lava several
blocks long. At OEM, a voice in the background continues one of the
weirder bits here by staring at the televised flow of molten rock and
asking, "What the hell is that?" Then a broadcaster finally
puts it all together. "What can only be described as lava
is now snaking it’s way down Stanley Avenue," she notes.
Someone get that woman a Pulitzer.
- Others are still confused. In the black
neighborhood introduced in the car crash scene earlier, a reporter is
heard to say, "Something fiery is heading down the street!"
What the hell kind of moronic universe is this, anyway?
- Meanwhile, and you knew it had to
happen, a woman (with flaming people and burning houses and falling
lava bombs all around her) shouts in horror, "My dog is [trapped]
in there!" Unsurprisingly, this is milked for a good long while,
as the dog gets within inches of the humongous flow of lava so as to
bark at it before finally running out a rear doggy door. Whew. That
was…too close. Cue triumphant swell of music as the dog escapes. And
no, I’m not kidding.
- Jones tries to convince some guys
(including the racist cop from earlier) to help him use a bus to block
and channel the lava flow, which he describes, and I’m again not
kidding, as "whatever this is." Heche, having made the
scene, fills him in. "Lava!" she explains. Again, everyone
has to see this to fully understand how stupid this continued bit is.
How anyone can possibly fail to identify molten lava is beyond me.
Meanwhile, why would the bus block the mystery substance anyway? We’ve
already seen several vehicles, including a fire truck, almost
instantly melt away once touched by this bizarre, enigmatic material.
- As heroic music swells (I swear, I’m
going to kill the music editor for this thing) a bunch of guys and
Heche manually push the bus in front of the unearthly
flaming-and-expanding-tar-like stuff. Heche, meanwhile, having in fact
identified the material as "la-va," or something, tells
Jones he must evacuate the West Side of Los Angeles. (He needed her to
tell him this?) This represents a "million people," Jones
complains. If he doesn’t evacuate them, she states, they’ll be a
"million dead or homeless people." Which leads me to wonder
how evacuation would keep you from becoming ‘homeless’ as a result
of a massive flow of ‘la-va.’
- While helping a collapsed fellow, Jones
and Heche are trapped between the flow of lava, the bus (which now
being in place appears serve no rational function at all, other than
to trap our leads for ‘suspense’ purposes) and a flaming tree.
Take my word for it. Jones yells for a fireman to swing the fire truck
ladder over the wall of flame so as to provide a means of escape.
Proving as dumb as everyone else in the picture, Heche, seeing him
guide in the ladder, yells "What are you going to do?" Yeah,
it’s a mystery, alright.
- OK, I want you to picture this. The
ladder lowers, and comatose guy is laid along the top of the
horizontal rungs. Jones calls for it to be raised, and he and Heche
grab hold and are raised up literally a second before being engulfed
by the flow of lava. Then, they hold on as the ladder, suspending them
maybe six feet above the lake of molten rock, starts slowly to swing
them to safety. Now, I have to tell you, I think that human beings
would burst into flame under these conditions. But let’s ignore
that. Imagine hanging onto a ladder while directly over a vast surface
of lava. Do you think maybe your hands would get sweaty and you’d
fall to your death? (Have I mentioned that both Jones and Heche are
still wearing jackets?) The worst that happens is that their
boots start to smoke and (get this!) the fire hose over their heads,
laying along the ladder, bursts into flames! Uh, aren’t those flame
retardant? Needless to say, they just make it, and resume
dealing with the situation. Although they still don’t take their
- Cut back to the stranded subway train.
The temperature is stifling and they still can’t get well-designed
doors open. (Does OSHA know about this?) Looking out the rear window,
the driver sees some weird hot glowing stuffing coming down the
- Back above ground, the bus is diverting
the lava as planned. (Why isn’t the bus melting? IITS.) However,
since the lava is flowing around the bus, wouldn’t it just spread
back once it’s past? Am I missing something here? And could they
explain why exactly they are supposedly diverting the lava, since
there doesn’t seem to be any real purpose in having the lava come
down two-thirds of the street instead of the entire street?
- Jones turns his back on the lava and
yaks on the phone, until Heche points out the the gigantic wave of
lava is now only about maybe ten feet behind him. Even then he doesn’t
move away until it’s more like two or three feet away from him. Did
anyone involved in the process of making this film understand the idea
of how heat radiates? That lava doesn’t magically contain its heat,
releasing it only on things it touches? Because you wouldn’t know it
from watching the movie.
- When Cheadle learns that Jones’
daughter is heading to the hospital, he promises Jones that she’ll
get a suite. Uh, yeah. A hospital suite. For an apparently minor leg
injury. During a citywide disaster endangering millions, and in the
hospital that all the volcano-related victims are being evacuated to.
- Heche has to point out to Jones that the
lava is just oozing around the bus, which is still weirdly exant, and
spreading back out again. ("This is very determined stuff, she
notes.) I’m not sure why she must do this, as this is occurring
maybe ten yards away from him and in full sight.
- The same black guy who tussled with the
racist cop runs up and demands that the fire department (which would
seem to have its hands full) send trucks to his neighborhood. Of
course, Racist Cop is there too (Life’s a rich tapestry) and they
again argue. Don’t worry, this is all leading to a big payoff.
- Hilariously, Racist Cop handcuffs the
guy (although, technically, he has cause, as the black guy’s actions
in grabbing the fire chief would constitute assault), because jerks in
movies are usually unbelievable morons as well. Is it remotely
possible that even a real dyed-in-the-wool racist would arrest a guy
in the middle of this gigantic, city-threatening disaster? Maybe, but
it’s sure not playing that way on the screen. Meanwhile, why are he
and his partner the only cops on the scene? Wouldn’t some
higher official see this guy screwing around and ream him out?
- Nicotine Patch Guy and crew find the
subway train just in the nick of time. With the lave flowing
just on the other side of it, they break open the door and evacuate
the passengers, who have all passed out. Soon only the driver and NPG
are left in the train as the lava flows along under the train. (One
guy seeing it inevitably remarks, "What the hell is that?")
After grabbing the unconscious man, NPG slowly plods down the length
of the train to the door. The floor is so hot that this sneakers are
melting, and the entire train is aflame around him and molten metal is
cascading down from the ceiling (which means that he’s breathing in
lethally superheated gasses, but let’s ignore that). Finally he
makes it to the escape door, only to find that the lava is now
surrounding the car. This is the film’s grossest bit, and would be
truly offensive if it weren’t at the same time one of the most
ridiculous things ever committed to celluloid. I thought that NPG
would heave the driver to the crew beyond the lava, and then perish.
This, I guess, wasn’t dramatic enough. Instead, NPG leaps from the
doorway into the lava, maneuvers the driver over his head (they don’t
really show this as it clearly would be impossible) and tosses him to
safety as he melts away like the Wicked Witch of the West. Now I don’t
believe, even were you to somehow avoid dying of shock upon hitting
the lava (which would be a pretty good jolt to the old system, I’d
think), that you could maintain the proper balance and leverage needed
to lift a man over your head and then toss him, what with your legs
being eaten out from under you by molten lava.
- Did I mention that this scene is really,
- Luckily, a black cop shows up and orders
Racist Cop to stay around and help rather than running in his
prisoner. Just in case you were wondering. (Can you imagine what would
have happened to this guy when it came out that he left the disaster
scene to haul in a prisoner on a minor complaint?)
- As we look down the long, straight
street that for blocks back is full of bright, glowing lava, a
reporter suddenly announces, "Now you can see it." Huh?
- As concrete construction barricades
arrive, Jones formulates a plan to build a wall to contain the lava.
Heche, meanwhile, suggests dumping water on the trapped lava to form a
crust, which will help in damming it up. (More on this later.) The
plan goes forward, with, as someone noted on the Internet Movie
Database goofs list, the semi-circle barrier being built the wrong
way. The semi-circle wall is facing out from the lava instead of
bending in towards it. Ever notice how dams curve in towards the
water? The same principle should apply here. Also, I can’t help
noticing that the assembled barricade units have quite evident gaps
between them. Oddly, not even a small amount of lava will ooze through
- Again here, if you at all pay attention
to where we last saw the lava and how quickly it was moving, it would
have engulfed the characters as Jones explained his plan. Fortunately
for them, if not for us, the lava only moves when the camera is upon
it. In fact, if I were Jones, I’d just smash all the movie cameras
and freeze the lava in its tracks.
- Good White Cop frees Black Guy Who Ain’t
Gonna Take It Anymore from Racists Cop’s handcuffs and tells him to
go home. (Yes, we’re to believe that this guy was cuffed during all
this.) This occurs right after GWC and RC and some others fail to lift
their concrete segment of the dam. Three guesses what happens next. If
you guessed BGWAGTIA (who just happens to be a very big dude) joins
the effort to build the dam, give yourself a point. If you guess that
he ends up shoulder to shoulder with RC while doing so, and that then
RC glances over with what just might be burgeoning respect, you’re
ready to write scripts for Hollywood. Need I add "Cue dramatic
swell of music"?
- If you guessed that Kelly would be put
in charge of watching over a slew of scared but extremely cute tykes,
and thus learn a little something about responsibility while also
gaining new insight into why her father does what he does, then you
should be hunted down and slain before you also can inflict more
drivel like this upon the rest of us.
- Heche notes that there’s a lot of
lava, and informs Jones that, "There’s got to be something
feeding this! From below, a source!" Yeah, thanks for the update.
- Hmm, a refugee center at the local Hard
Rock Café. Sly wink at a popular location in the city or naked
product placement? You decide!
a scene: Kelly distracts the kids with a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
A boy holding his hand out straight and going ‘sssss’ protests that
he’s not paper, he’s lava. "What beats lava?" he
innocently asks. (From the mouths of babes, huh?) "My dad…I
hope," Kelly wistfully replies.
- With the dam in place and reinforced by
fire trucks, Jones gives the order to let the lava pool before
throwing water on it. This basically collects a lake of molten rock
five or six feet deep, literally tens of millions of gallons of lava.
As this collects (and, again, fails to leak through the evident gaps
in the wall), guys stand directly on the other side of the barrier.
Admittedly, they’re wearing fire suits (most of them), but just
imagine the amount of heat that would be generated here. Imagine being
in an active volcano, and standing literally three feet away from the
main pool of lava. That’s pretty much what we’re talking about.
- OK, when one reporter notes that the
"weight of this lava must be absolutely intense," uh, I
assume he was supposed to say, ‘immense.’ Right? Right? (Actually,
probably not – the subtitles also say ‘intense’ and they usually
work off the script for those.) Said reporters, by the way, are all
shown directly on the other side of the wall containing the
lava, and all are bereft of heat resistant clothing but are wearing
jackets (!). One seems to be actually laying his hand on the wall.
Doesn’t concrete conduct heat? Am I totally wrong about this?
- OK, this has always bothered me, so if I’m
wrong, will somebody please let me know? The firemen congregate just
off the wall as dozens of those fire-fighting helicopters fly over. As
the ‘copters drop their massive payloads of water, the assembled
firemen open up with dozens of hoses, all while standing more or less
directly along the block long and six-foot deep reservoir of molten
lava. Now, I’d really have to assume that all this water hitting all
this lava would result in a gigantic explosion of steam that would
parboil everyone in the immediate area, protective fire gear or no. Am
I mistaken in this?
- The same reporter that misused the word
"intense" describes the area as "drenched." ‘Drenched,’
as far as I know, means ‘saturated with water.’ Since the
still-hot lava would have burned off the water, it could hardly be ‘saturated.’
Given his inept command of the King’s English, how did this guy get
to be a reporter?
- OK, I was just thinking of some TV
reporters I’ve seen, and I withdraw the question.
- Heche goes down into the subway tunnels
to find the mysterious source of the lava. Finding a collapsed section
of the tunnel, she takes a thermometer with a wand attachment and
sinks the extension into the rubble and dirt, maybe four or five
inches deep. The register quickly reads 650° Fahrenheit. Wouldn’t
she be able to tell that the rubble was ‘hot’ without sticking a
wand into it? After all, she is a scientist.
- As dawn arrives, the lava appears safely
dammed. (However, since we still have half an hour of movie left…)
This celebratory scene allows us a quiet moment when Racist Cop and
Black Guy Etc. lay aside their differences and for the first time *yawn*
look at each other just as human beings. Yep, racial rapprochement is just
that easy. Gee, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Like when you have
- As Jaye battles valiantly to tend to the
myriad wounded, Norman hectors her on the phone, ordering her to get
to safety. He also worries about what "those people" might
be coughing up on her. Man, what a yuppie bastard, eh? Jaye: Brave,
Selfless Asian Woman. Norman: Possessive, Selfish White Man. Are we
clear on this yet? Because the filmmakers are apparently really, really
concerned that this all comes across to the audience.
- By the way, how did this woman
ever marry such an evidently racist and sexist jerk? Didn’t they
think about how stupid that was?
- I know this is a question for another
(better) movie, but couldn’t Norman’s concern for his wife be
portrayed with a bit more compassion? Couldn’t he just be weak and
fallible instead of being this colossal and monolithic asshole? Is it
really necessary to so strictly group everybody into ‘good’ and
- Heche contacts Jones to alert him that
their problems (duh) aren’t over. In order to make him listen, she
notes that the Mount St. Helen’s eruption generated forces 27,000
times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Jones admits that nowhere
near that amount of energy has yet been released here, and is
convinced. (Although I’m not strictly sure what relevance that
statistic has on the situation at hand.) Needless to say, this factoid
won’t be quoted again, because if the volcano in this movie were to
generate a blast equaling, say, one Hiroshima blast, pretty
much the entire city would be destroyed and all our characters would
be dead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
- Heche and Jones (who’s just wandering
around the city without anyone in the press or the city bureaucracy
bugging him – think about how unlikely that is) are investigating a
street grate elsewhere in the city, per her worries about further
volcanic activity. Seeing steam erupting up the manhole, Heche tells
Jones to lower her down into the passage on a rope. (!!) He wisely
demurs, and since she’s too small to lower him down, they come up
with an alternate plan: Lower a video camera. Given all that’s
occurred so far, including the flash frying of Heche’s assistant
earlier, don’t you think that would have been their first
- Heche, as she lowers the camera:
"Oh, God, this is so stupid. This city’s finally paying for it’s
arrogance." You didn’t think we’d get out of here without
being force fed an Important Environmental Message, did you?
- Wait, so…the volcano is only
threatening the city because they built all these subway tunnels. Huh?
Could you run through that again? I mean, if the city collapsed after
an earthquake because of the tunnels undermining everything, that
would be one thing, but…huh? What would that have to do with a volcano?
Earlier Heche explained about these Tu-ton-ic Plate things. Were these
affected by subway construction?
- Did you guess that the view from the
lowered camera would look clear to one side, but then when they turned
it to look the other way, a sudden flood of lava would just at that
moment burst onto the scene and eat it? You did? Oh.
- So the idea is that the tunnel is
insulating the lava and keeping it fluid and moving, but that when it
hits an obstruction, it’ll erupt again. It turns out that the tunnel
ends under Cedars Sinai Hospital, right where *gasp* Jaye and
Kelly are. (Gee, and isn’t it ironic that this was the ‘safe’
hospital that Norman wanted his wife to work at? That guy just can’t
catch a break.)
- Heche computes that the lava will hit
there and erupt in perhaps 30 minutes. OK, if this stuff has this
gigantic amount of pressure behind it (remember the comparison to the
Hiroshima bomb) how could it possibly take a half hour to move across
town? Wouldn’t it be traveling at bullet speed?
- Moreover, Heche notes that the lava
might be slowed down if any of the tunnel has collapsed. But…the
entire scene here is predicated on the idea that once the lava is
obstructed, another eruption will occur. So, if the tunnel is
collapsed anywhere, even partially, wouldn’t that just cause the
lava to break through at that point?
- Here Jones utilizes his backup plan from
the lava dam scene, which was to try to divert the lava someplace safe
if it couldn’t be contained. Demolition teams are thus sent to
intersect the route of the lava (there’s not enough time or manpower
to evacuate Cedars Sinai) and create a trench that will redirect the
flow towards Ballona Creek, which feeds into the ocean.
- However, Heche points out that since the
street slopes the wrong way, the lava won’t enter the trench. Jones
wearily admits defeat. (And since he’s the hero, if he doesn’t
think of a solution, it’s all over.) Then he has a light bulb
moment. If a building is first dropped across the street, it’ll act
as a dam and force the lava into the trench and into the creek and
into the ocean. But what building will do…hey! There’s Norman’s
Hubris Towers, handily right on the scene!! Life’s a rich tapestry.
- Oh, did I mention that this all
represents an almost impossible RACE AGAINST TIME?
- Uh-oh! One of Kelly’s adorable charges
has scampered. I hope that pursuing the tyke doesn’t put her IN
- As Kelly’s quest takes her through the
kitchen of the Hard Rock Café (?), a megaphoned voice is heard:
"We are abandoning the Hard Rock!" Given the
corporation’s recent financial woes, this seems rather prescient.
- Hey, didn’t we already see that same
- Norman shows up at the triage center to
further nag Jaye. Of course, she stays, and of course, he flees in
cowardly fashion. (Are we supposed to care? This guy, by my count, had
just over one minute of actual screen time!) Now that they’ve
established for the nth time his ‘jerk’ credentials, we in the
audience can take our supposedly great *yawn* satisfaction in
seeing the Very Symbol of His Ambition dramatically destroyed. Or
something like that.
- Uh, shouldn’t that tremendous geyser
of lava be setting afire that building it’s right next to?
- Wow, who would have thought that Kelly
and little Tommy would end up right in the middle of that series of
detonations meant to form the lava trench? Or that her father would be
the only one to see them? What’re the odds against that? Three to
one at least, I’d bet.
- With the paralyzed-with-fear young ‘uns
trapped between the explosions, the tremendous pillar of jetting lava,
and the collapsing Symbol of Norman’s Hubris (what, no killer
bears?), we are ‘treated’ to a ‘cool’ bit of Jones desperately
running – in slow motion, natch – in a race against time to
save the person he loves most in the world!
- He wins, by the way, leaping to knock
his daughter aside just before the toppling bluescreen effect, er,
building crushes her. I’m not exactly sure why flying rubble doesn’t
decapitate them anyway, but there you go.
- Wait, is Heche, standing on that truck
in the distance, supposed to be able to identity that tiny dot in the
distance as Jones?! Superman should have such vision.
- Hmm, funny how with all those people
desperately searching the rubble for sign of Jones and the kids, that
it should be Heche who spots them first. (Cue big swell of music.)
- Hey, that’s funny. Kelly’s been
sporting a (somewhat inconsistent) big bruise on her left cheek for
much of the last hour. Yet now it’s gone. Must be that "Buried
in Rubble Cure" we’ve all heard so much about.
- Hilariously, a news report numbers the
death toll of all this at "almost a hundred." Yeah, I’m
- OK, if you haven’t thrown up from the
film’s saccharine racial ‘message’ prior to this, you better get
your vomit bag out. As a big black cop carries blond little Tommy
around, he asks Tommy what his mother looks like. The exaggeratedly
cute waif looks around at the crowds of bystanders, all of whom are
covered with volcanic ash. "Look at their faces," the
wide-eyed innocent portentously proclaims. "They all look that
same." Somehow the congregated extras all seem to hear his wee
voice and look at each other with eyes opened for the first time and
realize, hey, the kid’s right. We’re not so different after all!
And so ended all racial conflict in the city of Los Angeles and maybe,
just maybe, wherever audiences saw this movie.
- In case you were wondering, yes, that
Public Service Commercial where everyone likes each other until the
bags over their heads blow away and reveal them to be different colors
worked much better.
- Then, just in case the movie weren’t
cliché enough, we end with a rain storm that oh-so-subtly signals a
symbolic rebirth. (It also cleans off the main characters so that they
can have their final scenes without being coated in ash.) Jones and
Heche congratulate themselves on how great they were and hug – hey,
I think they’ve fallen in love!
- OK, they can even be more cliché than I
thought. The film ends with Cheadle showing up with – I swear! --
Max, Jones’ big fluffy dog. (Where the heck did he manage to
dig up their dog?!) Awwww!! Somebody must have liked
this bit, because it’s recreated in Steven Seagal’s The Patriot
with his daughter’s pony being mysteriously brought into town for
that film’s climatic parade.