It’s been nearly 20 years since “Twister” blew through theaters — more than long enough for a new generation to get blown away with “Into the Storm,” a goofy take that’s harmless, silly, but rarely fun.
Unlike worst case disaster films like “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” tornadoes and hurricanes are a bit too common these days. As such, the entertainment value of paying to witness a movie-sized version of real occurrences that level homes and take people’s lives seems a bit questionable.
John Swetnam’s script tries to explain this disaster porn spectacle by focusing on a team of storm trackers looking to document an unprecedented tornado. While timely in our 24-7 reality TV era, it’s probably asking too much of a screenwriter who’s most recent work was “Step Up All In” to come up with an engaging story, but it’s serviceable.
Swetnam works in over a dozen characters with varying levels of importance, but it becomes painfully obvious early on which are untouchable and who is tornado fodder.
Pete (Matt Walsh, “The Hangover”) is leading his team of storm chasers — Allison (“The Walking Dead’s” Sarah Wayne Callies), Daryl (Arlen Escarpeta, “Friday the 13th”), Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter, “Peter Pan”) and Lucas (Lee Whittaker) — in pursuit of his life’s dream of filming inside the eye of a tornado.
Prepped with a mini-tank/SUV hybrid, Pete seems well-equipped to handle even the worst storm and, in some poorly-described manner, help save lives with his efforts.
Over in Subplot B, Donnie (Max Deacon) finally has found a way to spend some time with his crush, Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) by not recording the high school’s graduation. Donnie’s flaking forces his widowed father/vice principal Gary (Richard Armitage, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”) to rely on his younger son, Trey (Nathan Kress). It was difficult to decide if Armitage was the only performer taking the role seriously or if he needed to lighten up and embrace the silliness like the rest of the cast.
The film’s most obnoxious subplot features two thrill-seeking drunks Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep) so annoying you may find yourself trying to “direct” a tornado in their path. Swetnam should have dumped them to allow for more development of the non-cartoon characters.
Director Steven Quale sets up the film in quasi-documentary, found footage style so even while the tornadoes are raging around, someone always opts to shoot instead of getting a better grip. Quale previously directed “Final Destination 5” so if you’re getting that vibe that any second some random craziness is gonna kill off a character, it’s not a coincidence.
Due to the found footage nature of the film, there aren’t as many shocks and surprises, but like any “Final Destination” veteran, Quale knows how to stage widespread chaos. The destruction shots, as you may expect, are the main draw and Quale brings you as close as you’d want to get to the face of a tornado.
Paced at a brisk 89 min., the film moves quickly and is largely inoffensive. It’s not a classic, but “Into the Storm” is consistent with other recent offerings in the disaster genre — heavy on effects, light on script and characters. Don’t expect more and maybe you’ll be satisfied.
Rating: 4 out of 10