Dante's Peak

Released: February 7, 1997
Budget: $115 million
US Box Office: $67 million
Global Box Office: $178 million

Director: Roger Donaldson
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, Charles Hallahan, Jamie Renee Smith, Jeremy Foley, Elizabeth Hoffman

Synopsis: The small town of Dante's Peak is threatened when its volcano starts acting up. Can the town be evacuated before it's too late?
Best Quote: "Her name was Melissa. She loved volcanoes..."

Review: 1.5 stars

Big star, big budget, forgettable movie…it's sad when a disaster flick tries to follow a tried and true formula and misses the mark. Case in point: Roger Donaldson's Dante's Peak does its best to imitate earlier disaster successes, but is ultimately brought down by weak acting and a poor screenplay.

To be nice, I'll start with the good stuff. For a movie made in 1997 the special effects are pretty awesome. As an early entry in the modern era of disaster movies, Dante's Peak tries to dethrone the reigning king Twister by targeting a bigger and deadlier type of natural disaster and ripping off most everything else. Visually, the makers of this film pull that off pretty well. The titular volcano is impressive as it stands tall over all of the action. When it finally blows, the CG is clean and the sense of chaos is excellent. As somebody from Seattle, it definitely made me a little wearier when I look at the mountains to the east. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie just doesn't live up to the visuals.

As the star of the film, Pierce Brosnan plays a snobby vulcanologist (redundant?). It's forgivable when his character is also a badass like in Goldeneye, or when we aren't supposed to like him like in Mrs. Doubtfire, but an unlikable hero can bring down a disaster movie faster than a thousand dollar budget. To make it worse, the other characters don't have a lot of redeeming qualities. The mayor is too inept to be believable, her kids are bratty, and the grandma is just plain abrasive. I don't want to give the impression that the screenplay is a complete mess. Tension builds nicely as we wait for the eruption, and the potential PR nightmare of a false alarm is a nice little moral dilemma for the scientists and elected officials. It's really in the idiotic dialogue that the movie begins to slip. Coupled with crappy acting, that makes it hard to recommend Dante's Peak as anything more than a mediocre version of Twister with volcanoes.