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Dante's Peak (1997)
Rated PG13

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, and Charles Hallahan

Rating:
**
out of
*****

With the advent of computer graphics effects that can display tornadoes and alien invasions with startling realism, it appears that film makers have decided to go back and remake all of the old Irwin Allen disaster movies to take advantage of them. Dante's Peak is the first of this year's crop of these glorified TV disaster-of-the-week movies.

The familiar formula's in place for this movie. There's the smart, but haunted, scientist (Pierce Brosnan) who travels around the world monitoring volcanoes that appear poised to erupt. (His arrival in town should warn everyone of impending doom, but, of course, he's got also got a knack for jumping to conclusions that lulls everyone into the typical false sense of security.) There's the attractive, but lonely, single mom (Linda Hamilton), who is the mayor of the town that stands in the shadow of the looming Dante's Peak. This movie also has the typically cute kids, the family dog, and a rag-tag team of scientists and college nerds that monitor the progress of the impending disaster (ala Twister).

The movie begins with Dante's Peak, the town, being chosen as the "second best place to live in the United States with a population of 20000 or less." To me, it sounds like a perfect candidate to get lava and ash dumped all over it. Of course, the entire town seems stupefied that the volcano might actually erupt. Science must not apply to the particular volcano that overlooks their town.

There are few true surprises in the movie, other than some of the more inventive ways to get the protagonists into trouble and then get them out again. If anyone really had the luck that this group has, they'd be better off taking up professional gambling and quit the geology thing pronto. In fact, the only people that die in this movie are either not introduced to the audience or they've had some sort of difference of opinion with either Brosnan or Hamilton's character. Hmmm...

Although none of the performances are out-and-out bad, the actors clearly take a back seat to the stunt people and special effects crew. Some of the effects are truly spectacular, but how many different ways can things blow up? And that's the only thing this movie is good at: blowing things up. Great special effects are only great when there's a story behind them. Otherwise, they're just eye candy.

If you're in search of a slam-bang good time at the movies, look elsewhere. If you want to learn about volcanoes, try an encyclopedia.

Trivia: Leslie Bohen, who wrote the screenplay for Dante's Peak, is also responsible for the recent Sylvester Stallone debacle, Daylight. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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