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Film Review: Volcano - Just another bad day in the disaster capital of the world

Volcano

Directed by Mick Jackson

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Don Cheadle, John Corbett, Keith David, Gaby Hoffmann, Jacqui Kim, John Carroll Lynch , Stan Olber, and Michael Rispoli

Written by Jerome Armstrong, Jerome Armstrong, and Billy Ray

By Jonathan Litt
Staff Reporter

Much like a lava lamp, Volcano provides mindless entertainment consisting mostly of big blobs of lava that float around in unpredictable directions. Better yet, the blobs in Volcano become responsible for the destruction of a good portion of Los Angeles, which is always a reliable way to win over an audience. Don't expect to exercise any more brain cells watching this movie than you would by watching a lava lamp though. Volcano is typical Hollywood schlock that will rouse at best a moderate amount of interest from the movie-going public before the real summer blockbusters start rolling out a few weeks from now.

As with numerous other disaster flicks like Independence Day and the disaster-spoof Mars Attacks!, Volcano starts off by introducing several orthogonal subplots about characters who are undoubtedly meant to cross paths later on. First we meet Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones), the workaholic director of L.A.'s Office of Emergency Management who has an eagle's eye for any hint of an emergency.

Roark calls on Caltech geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche) to investigate some bizarre geological activity recorded underneath a park in downtown L.A. The typically inane conversation that results between her and Roark goes something like, "What did you see down there?"

"Magma!"

"What is magma?"

"Lava!"

"Oh!"

Meanwhile, a husband and wife move into their dream apartment (will the marriage and the apartment last through the disaster?), a black man is harassed by the LAPD (will the man eventually find redemption?), and Roark's teenage daughter struggles to feel like an adult (will she eventually come of age?). Who cares? It's time to appease the masses with the gratuitous effects we paid to see.

Before Roark and Barnes can successfully diagnose the situation, a volcano erupts in the wee hours of the morning from the famed La Brea Tar Pits. At this point, the movie kicks into auto-pilot mode as it ditches its lousy excuse for a story and treats the audience to a good hour or so of fiery explosions and whiz-bang special effects, most of which consist of superb digital compositing of live actors with fake lava. The few token plot digressions as discussed above are so embarrassingly bad that you should wear earplugs to prevent them from taking your attention away from the destruction.