Cinemalphabet: V is for Volcano (1997)
Volcano has the dubious honor of containing some of the best acting (not even being cheeky) in one of the worst movies ever made. Volcano robbed Cheadle of the A-list above title credit he so richly deserves. Let’s put it another way: Cheadle is to Volcano what Jones (who attempts to shepherd this hot mess) is to The Fugitive. Which means that likable character actors like John Carroll Lynch (as government worker Stan) would have had his shot at TV Dad stardom if the film’s terrible special effects, bad script and embarrassing dialog, (which these actors handled like troopers) hadn’t rendered the entire cinematic experience utter shit.
Here are a collection of my favorite bad reviews of the film. Despite being one of my unabashedly favorite disaster flicks, I know it’s bad – real bad. Yet, I cannot resist its charms and sat through two showings the day it opened. What bugs me more than the lack of scorn heaped upon the terrible special effects, is nobody noticing how awesome Don Cheadle is in this movie. He is so damn fabulous, hilarious and brilliant. Let’s not even mention Keith David who always brings gravitas to even the shittiest roles.
- “The film, about a volcano erupting in downtown Los Angeles, is helped immeasurably by veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones, who has enough charm and charisma to rescue just about any movie. He needs it all to save this one.”
- “But it [Volcano] also brings a new and icky twist to the blow-up genre: “Multicultural” feelgood schmaltz right out of AT&T commercials. If only Los Angeles could be devastated by a vast volcanic eruption every day, we’d all live in racial harmony! So you’ve got your emergency chief, Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones, who must have needed a new swimming pool or something), a divorced dad with this 13-year-old daughter, Kelly, who is having a real hard time with the situation, to the point where she ain’t got no common sense and keeps running off into the basements of 60-story buildings that are about to be dynamited.”
- “Volcano is an absolutely standard, assembly-line undertaking; no wonder one of the extras is reading a paperback titled “Screenwriting Made Easy.” The movie stars Tommy Lee Jones, professional as always even in this flimsy story, as the chief of the city’s Office of Emergency Management. He races through the obligatory opening scenes of all disaster movies (everyday life, ominous warnings, alarm sounded by hero scientist, warnings poo-pooed by official muckety-mucks, etc.).”
- “And what’s the point of biblical suffering without a moral backbone? ”Volcano” tries to tack on platitudes about racial harmony, but it’s a lot more comfortable melting the rubber soles of its characters’ shoes. …Roark is very brave, and he loves his daughter (Gaby Hoffman). He has a fast-talking, hotshot second-in-command (Don Cheadle). And, since everyone knows that a natural disaster is a great dating opportunity, he happens during the course of the crisis to meet Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), a glamorous seismologist. She may not know any more about earthquakes than Elisabeth Shue’s ”Saint” character knows about cold fusion, but she looks great covered with gray ash. Ms. Heche is fresh and spirited, and the camera loves her.”
If you can’t spare two hours of your life – which you’ll never get back – to watch the film, at least watch a ten minute version of the film. Perhaps you’ll experience the same charms I did.
Everyone: “All the faces look the same!”