Making the Grades
Disaster films take no prisoners. There's always someone, usually a fifty-something guy in charge, who refuses to heed the warnings popping up around him. His ignorance results in, well... disaster. As punishment, it's almost certain he's going to be a victim by the time the credits roll.
A film about a volcanic eruption, Dante's Peak follows this classic disaster formula like hot lava running downhill, but it's the refreshing common sense attitudes of its characters that gives this movie a sensibility that reaches beyond its special effects.
Even small details are included, like when Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) drives through a raging river in a four-wheel-drive Suburban--a popular activity in movies that causes many people to drown their sport utility vehicles in rainstorms. But a movie miracle happens when his frightened passenger, Rachel (Linda Hamilton), asks just how he is going to get across. Dalton shows her a neat little device called an engine snorkel that sticks up above the water and delivers air to the engine. Bravo to the writers who at least offered an explanation.
However, a few minutes later, that same sensible Dalton wants us to believe his supertruck can cross mounds of molten lava. Good thing by that point we are riding to safety with our hero and aren't asking as many questions.
For young children, this movie will be frightening, especially if you live near a volcano. Parents are well advised to heed the MPAA PG-13 rating. I praise the producers for holding back on unnecessary gore, but it is after all, a story about people being buried alive under volcanic debris. Language is more crass than necessary, and sexual content consists of a naked female's upper back and an invitation for an overnight stay that never develops.
Keeping this content in mind, Dante's Peak erupts into one of the most exciting disaster films made thus far, and will keep parents and teens hanging on for the ride. Lets just hope the next fifty-something guy will learn his lesson.