Dante’s Peak

A True Lava Story

About a year ago, I met a vulcanologist who had been assigned the task of reading the scripts for the two competing big screen volcano movies being released this year. He described Dante’s Peak as being “the least ludicrous” of the two.

For better or worse, we’re in the midst of a Hollywood disaster-fest. The digitally manufactured spectacle created for last summer’s Twister was so successful that producers jumped to the conclusion that the public was eager for a lot more bad weather. They failed to realize that Twister was actually a monster movie, more akin to Jaws than The Towering Inferno.

Pierce Brosnan plays the vulcanologist who’s the only one who realizes that the sleeping mountain is about to erupt. Linda Hamilton is the foxy small town mayor (and single mother) who’s just trying to do the Right Thing. Both actors are very good, and I found myself enjoying the subplot of their hesitant romance so much that it was a bit disappointing when the volcano finally erupted. When it does, there can be no doubt that Universal had their theme parks in mind when they made this movie just as much as world box office receipts. Brosnan, Hamilton, and the whole family are kept moving in whatever bumper car is handy from one exciting and unlikely predicament to another, making hairbreadth escapes from certain death while dodging lava, ash, and debris. They hardly have time for the obligatory rescue of the family dog.

Dante’s Peak is ludicrous all right – but it’s ludicrous in the same way as an old fashioned adventure serial, or the thrill ride it’s likely to become. I don’t really have to tell you not to take it seriously.

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