To paraphrase trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth in The Dark Knight: some people just want to watch the world burn. Those people will be lining up for San Andreas, the latest action spectacular to demolish the ever-crumbling Golden Gate Bridge of our movie nightmares. Since there are, proverbially, two kinds of people in the world, some will eagerly gobble their popcorn to this at-times terrifying vision that lays waste to Los Angeles, Nevada's Hoover Dam, and especially San Francisco, while others will run screaming not from falling rubble but from their local multiplexes. I can't tell you which kind of person you are, but I can say that San Andreas succeeds at exploiting a proven disaster-movie formula without troubling itself much with little things like plot, character, and dialogue.
What's immediately apparent is that screenwriter Carlton Cuse (TV's Lost and Bates Motel), or perhaps the credited story authors Andre Fabrizio & Jeremy Passmore, are big, big fans of James Cameron's The Abyss, which features an estranged couple re-bonding in a crisis and a centerpiece scene in which rising waters in a cramped space threaten to drown two characters. As you may have guessed, that stuff happens in San Andreas as well, without the needless distraction of the audience wondering how it'll all turn out.
This is a movie comfortable with cliche: the Cassandra-like seismologist (Paul Giamatti: "No one listens to us until the ground shakes"), the Ultra-Capable Dad (Dwayne Johnson's L.A. Fire & Rescue chopper pilot Ray), the Second-Thoughts Divorcee (Carla Gugino, whose Emma takes another look at the Rock's biceps in action), the Step-Cad (Ioan Gruffudd's weaselly architect-firm CEO), the Ingenues (Alexandria Daddario as Ray and Emmma's daughter Blake, and Hugo Johnstone-Burt as her Hugh Grant-y meet-cute Ben), and the Plucky Kid (Art Parkinson as not-very-funny comic relief Ollie).
Earthquakes haven't been exploited at the movies as much as one would think (most prominently in 1974's Earthquake, which brought us the Sensurround gimmick), but those with long-memories can cross-reference 1997's Dante's Peak and Volcano, which are more or less the same movie as (each other and) San Andreas, except with geysers of lava.
But Hollywood counts on short memories these days, and so Johnson drags poor Gugino (who deserves so much better) around in a chopper, a plane, a truck and a speedboat for variations on pedal-to-the-metal "holy crap!" near-misses. San Andreas nominally mitigates the unsavory damsel-in-distress vibe here by stocking Blake (who is the plot's "We're going to get our daughter" raison d'etre, and who also gets initially saved by Ben) with her-father's-daughter tactical know-how, which more or less keeps those twitty Brits Ben and Ollie alive until Ray arrives to do the heavy lifting. But none of this really matters. The bottom line is the CGI is mostly pretty great (with one laughable S.F.-skyscraper-as-hellscape exception), so when the theater's rocking, audiences knees will be knocking.