‘Into the Storm’ does the ‘Twister,’ again: 2 stars

08/07/2014 8:00 AM

08/07/2014 1:00 PM

The Great Plains are constantly vulnerable to tornadoes and poor decisions, according to “Into the Storm.”

This latest disaster/adventure movie works purely on a visceral level, efficiently coordinating in-the-moment mayhem. Once the credits roll, however, the impact simply blows away. Much like the common sense of the characters.

“Into the Storm” offers a near-remake of 1996’s “Twister,” right down to the storm-chasing caravan of heroes rolling through Oklahoma in hopes of spotting an EF5. Leading the charge is Pete (Matt Walsh of “Ted”), who is either making a documentary film or a TV series about tornadoes — the dialogue provides conflicting info.

Together with meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies of TV’s “The Walking Dead”) and a couple of cameramen, they are on a three-month tour stalking massive storm fronts from Idaho to Texas. They’re emboldened by Titus, Pete’s “ultimate storm-chasing vehicle.” It’s basically a tank rigged with a dozen swiveling cameras. Perfect for the survivalist/voyeur in your family.

Meanwhile, assistant principal Gary (Richard Armitage of “The Hobbit”) is preparing for his high school’s graduation (shades of Joplin here). Both his teenage sons (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress) are helping document the event, although they’d much rather point cameras at pretty girls.

All these characters collide as nature whips into a frenzy. Then their motivation become a harrowing, eventually exhausting string of idiotic risk-taking followed by bold rescues.

“Into the Storm” is interesting at first because we see the drama through “found footage,” only through the cameras of the characters involved. (How many reviews will dub this “Twister” meets “Cloverfield”?)

But clearly director Steven Quale (“Final Destination 5”) doesn’t understand the definition of a found-footage flick, ignoring this stylistic approach on a whim. So despite all the nausea-inducing handheld work by a collage of individuals or the numerous fixed cams on the Titus, the movie cuts to a master shot, close-up or aerial overhead whenever it gets too lazy to come up with an excuse for needing footage.

The imagery works better that way, anyhow. Quale replicates tornado carnage better than other recent blockbusters. And he nails the sprawling aftermath, highlighting details such as a kid’s bike embedded in the side of a minivan. Overall, the visuals are mighty and convincing — nearly half of the picture’s $50 million budget was reportedly dedicated to post-production effects.

Impressive? Certainly. Entertaining? Well …

The film delivers a downpour of perils but only a drizzle of humor. Kress — best known for the sitcom “iCarly” — seems the most at ease with the funny asides. Despite Walsh being the one legitimate sketch comedian in the cast, he’s primarily saddled with straight-man lines.

The laughs come to a complete halt whenever the action cuts to Donk and Reevis (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep). This pair of redneck “Jackass” wannabees chase storms in a pickup adorned with the logo Twista Hunterz, literally throwing caution to the wind. Their only function is as mindless comic relief, yet the characters are so gratingly broad that viewers can only hope they end up as tornado chum.


2 stars

Rated PG-13 | Time: 1:29

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