You know, I was feeling kind of uninspired tonight, and I wasn’t going to write anything, so I plopped down in front of the TV (the fiancee is out watching a play that I couldn’t muster any energy to see) and thought, “Eh, fuck it.” Of course, since it is Friday night, there isn’t anything good on. For some reason, I found myself watching Volcano, a profoundly terrible movie, and I’m only 45 minutes into it. It’s so numbingly bad in such a circumspect way, it’s kind of remarkable; it’s such an earnest, profligate waste of talent and money, it could only come from Hollywood.
It’s got Tommy Lee Jones, looking like the family bulldog when he’s been wrongly accused of farting. “Blame me if you want,” his haggard eyes seem to say, “but it won’t make the smell go away.” Don Cheadle periodically talks to him on the phone, and isn’t that just hellzapoppin’ adrenalized action? That’s all he gets to do: talk on the phone. Anne Heche is wandering around somewhere too, and because she is a woman, she is of course totally unheroic when called upon to save her partner: her partner dies; she cries. Poor actresses. Sorry, Anne, too bad Tommy Lee wasn’t there to manfully help you: he was on the phone with Don.
Tommy Lee is running around with his hopeless daughter (poor actresses), when all of a sudden, the tar pits erupt into flames, and lava is roiling about everywhere, and ash is falling from the sky in sheets, and everyone keeps wondering: What in the fuck is going on? Is it a hurricane? Is it Godzilla? Meanwhile, the poor viewer is sitting there innocently, feeling his neck veins pulse, trying not to scream, “IT’S A VOLCANO! VOLCANO! YOU STUPID FUCKS! THE NAME OF THE FUCKING MOVIE IS VOLCANO!”
The problem with a volcano as a driving narrative force is, it doesn’t really do much except sit there and . . . volcane. It’s not like a tornado or a forest fire; it isn’t really too hard to figure out, really: run away from the really slow moving magma until you can no longer see it. So instead they contrive ridiculous shit, like the hopeless daughter standing six feet away from the menacing, really slow magma flow, screaming “DADDY!” Tommy Lee looks over at her like “You’re kidding, right?” Then he remembers the stupid script and his paycheck, and gamely wanders over to her and picks her up. By this time, of course, the magma is now a mere four feet away, and their access is blocked off, I guess, because Tommy jumps up onto the hood of his pickup while the tires blow up and the hopeless daughter screams, unfathomably, “DADDY! YOUR FEET!” (Poor, poor actresses.) Tommy sensibly ignores his hopeless daughter’s plangent podiacal quacking, because it’s his BIG SUSPENSEFUL MOMENT: the music swells! The film goes slo-mo! And Tommy Lee . . . jumps down off the hood onto the street.
Meanwhile, back to Anne, who is back at her pickup, sobbing over her dead friend that she totally failed to save, because she is a puny woman who should leave the hero business to men. Thanks, Hollywood! Meanwhile, all around her, the rest of the people in the city, having noticed that magma was rolling around everywhere, shit was blowing up all over the place, and ash was falling on their heads have begun doing the smart thing: evacuating, right? Nah. They’re looting. You know, that would be my first plan. “Holy shit, Mt. Rainier is erupting! (Thoughtful pause.) I’m going to go find a free blender!” Anne has stripped off her silvery all-purpose weird suit o’ science and has plopped it on the hood of her pickup. Immediately afterwards, someone runs by and loots it. This, I suppose, is some screenwriter’s limp stab at irony or . . . something. But it’s really just hilarious. “Check it out! I got a DVD player!” “Oh yeah? Well, I got the top half of some weird silver suit!”
Actually, what the fuck am I doing wasting time telling you this? I’ve got to see how this turns out! So I can make fun of it!
Suddenly, I’m enjoying myself.