It's a pretty normal day in L.A.; nice weather, a little smog, a slight earthquake. Tommy Lee Jones, the head of the Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management, is looking forward to spending a nice week off with his daughter. But the quake has opened a deep fissure under a subway tunnel, and the next thing you know the La Brea Tarpits have transformed into an active, visually stunning volcano. Can Jones and plucky, beautiful geologist Anne Heche save both his daughter and the city he's sworn to protect? Well, surprisingly enough, it's a blast to watch them try. Deft filmmaking that allows the special effects to help, not be, the story combines with an actual script to make Volcano a smart, self-aware, and most of all fun disaster movie. It's not Jones' craggy grimacing or Heche's brittle perkiness that make for such a good time. Of course, all the standard disaster-movie cliches are left in; for example, everyone puts aside their differences to work together for the common good. And Hollywood shows remarkable tenacity in its ability to spare the cute doggies while slaughtering thousands of human beings with exploding lava. But for once, you'll be well out of the theater before it really occurs to you to care. It's a high-quality distraction, which is all it needs to be, and you should treat yourself.
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