Day: May 28, 2012

Twister

 

1996

Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures

Directed by Jan deBont

Produced by Ian Bryce, Steven Spielberg, Michael Crichton, Kathleen Kennedy

Written by Michael Crichton, Anne Marie Martin

TWISTER falls into the weird in-between category of it not being a really good movie but it isn’t an especially bad one, either.  It’s not a movie that I would recommend you go out of your way to avoid but it’s also not one I’d recommend as a Must See.  Let me put it this way: if you’re channel surfing and just happen to land on it, check it out.  If you see it in the $5 bin in Wal-Mart or Target or Best Buy, leave it there as I don’t think it’s worth a place in anybody’s home Movie Library but it is two hours’ worth of disposable entertainment that you can enjoy if you approach it in the right way.

TWISTER is in a way a throwback to the disaster movies of the 70’s and 80’s.  Although it’s nowhere near as good as say, “The Poseidon Adventure” or “The Towering Inferno” I liked it a lot more than “Armageddon” “Daylight” or some of the recent disaster movie throwbacks such as “2012” or “Deep Impact”

Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) is a meteorologist obsessed with tornadoes ever since she saw her father sucked up by one when she was a child.  She’s built a device called “Dorothy” whose purpose is to release hundreds of tennis ball sized sensors inside a tornado to provide information to improve the accuracy of tornado warning systems. Jo plans to deploy the device during an especially intense tornado season in the Midwest and the very day she intends to do so, her estranged husband Bill Harding (Bill Paxton) shows up with his prospective new wife Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz) with divorce papers for her to sign.

Also showing up is Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes) Bill’s old partner who has built his own device “DOT-3” which is based on Bill’s designs for “Dorothy”.  Miller also plans to deploy his device and thereby claim sole credit for the invention of the device.  Bill holds off on the signing of the divorce papers to help Jo get “Dorothy” into a tornado before Miller does the same with “DOT-3”.

The rest of the movie has Jo and Bill, along with their wild-ass crew of storm chasers which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Jeremy Davies and Joey Slotnick pursuing tornadoes in increasingly more dangerous attempts to deploy “Dorothy” Melissa is dragged along and Jami Gertz’s reactions to the utter insanity of what they’re doing provides some of the humor in the movie.

The whole set-up with the bickering married couple is unnecessary as is the rivalry between Jo, Bill and Dr. Miller.  The real bad guys in TWISTER are of course, the tornadoes.  And they’re the real source of comedy for me in the movie.  Let me explain.  Apparently these must be a new breed of Stealth Tornadoes since there are several times in the movie where they sneak up on our intrepid band of storm chasers.  Even though they have all this high-tech gear in their caravan of trucks for monitoring storm activity, those pesky tornadoes just keep on taking them by surprise.  The one scene that had me howling with laughter was the one where Philip Seymour Hoffman insists that they’re right on top of a tornado but none of them can see it.  Why?  Because the daggone thing is following behind them.

There’s a couple of scenes where it’s bright and sunny with nary a cloud in the sky and all of a sudden things turn black in thirty seconds flat and multiple tornadoes come roaring out of nowhere like sharks who have tasted blood in the water. And the scene where a tornado apparently tip-toes quietly up to tear apart a drive-in is another howler.  The danger in chasing these things keep increasing as the intensity levels of the tornadoes rises, culminating in a tornado so powerful and deadly it’s called “The Finger of God”  But it still isn’t anywhere near as scary as that tornado in “The Wizard of Oz”.  Now that is a tornado to be terrified of.

But no matter how strong these tornadoes are, they just can’t snatch up Helen Hunt or Bill Paxton.  Boats, cars, bridges, trucks, 18-wheelers, cows are sent flying through the air by the powerful force of the tornadoes and even houses are pulled apart with ease but Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton appear to have the superhuman ability to avoid this fate simply by clutching onto each other and screaming repeatedly, “hang on!”

So should you see TWISTER?  Like I said earlier; don’t go out of your way to see it but if it happens to be on, it wouldn’t hurt you to watch.  It’s got a good cast of extremely likable actors who appear to enjoying what they’re doing and the special effects are very well done.  Sit back and enjoy the movie that I think should have been titled “Attack of the Stealth Tornadoes” and you’ll be fine.

113 minutes

PG-13