Forget about the explosions, the continent-sized volcanoes, the crumbling freeways and screaming extras — 2012 is no disaster movie, it’s a high-rent remake of The Parent Trap.
A little-known fact about divorced parents is that they’re all one global catastrophe away from slipping back into one another’s arms, ditching a Johnny-come-lately boyfriend in a disturbingly half-hearted rescue attempt and re-fusing their nuclear family while saving humanity at the same time.
John Cusack plays a burnout novelist who still pines for his ex-wife (Amanda Peet). As Cusack pines to reunite with Peet and his two kids, who have been usurped by a nerdy doctor placebo daddy, the earth’s core is overheating, causing ruptures in the crust that will swallow supporting characters for your gruesome entertainment.
Since the movie plays for more than two and a half hours, it has plenty of time to get metaphorical, and that’s exactly what it does. The gaping maws that erupt from the earth’s surface are metaphors for the gaping maw inside Cusack’s head for signing onto projects like this. The tumbling buildings are metaphors for Emmerich’s career path after making Independence Day, having followed that entertaining blockbuster with unwatchable messes such as Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 B.C. The snoring you hear in the seat beside you is a metaphor for the spaced-out, phoned-in performances.
The screenplay never quite does get around to fully explaining why the earth is ‘sploding, although it does hint it’s got something to do with the sun and that the One World Government learns about it far enough in advance to construct some Noah’s Arks and revisit the who-deserves-to-be-saved tension of Deep Impact. There’s neither depth nor impact in 2012, but there are divorce cures and tumbling Rio de Janeiro Jesus statues, so that’s something.
Starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Woody Harrelson. Written by Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser. Directed by Emmerich. Rated PG-13. 158 minutes.
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