Dwayne Johnson/Carla Gugino in San Andreas
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Carla Gugino star in San Andreas Think Jam) (Warner Bros

When a director, whose past films consist of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore, steps up to work on what has been branded as a "disaster epic" it's understandable to have some doubts. Brad Peyton's filmography isn't exactly reminiscent of that of someone such as Roland Emmerich.

Unlike old-hat pictures of the genre, in which the plot ultimately surrounds itself with saving humanity as a whole, San Andreas tries very hard (and almost succeeds) to root itself in reality by focussing solely on one family and their struggles to save each other from the devastation unfolding.

To hook this premise we have one of the family as an emergency first responder. Dwayne Johnson plays Ray Gaines, an LA search and rescue helicopter pilot who is haunted by the tragic loss of his daughter in a rafting accident, which led to the failure of his marriage.

His wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and his surviving daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) have moved on to a new life with Emma's wealthy boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd), something that Ray is not willing to accept.

When a major earthquake hits California and Ray is sent out to lead rescue operations across the south-west coast during the aftermath, he sees an opportunity to become the hero he failed to be before - and abandoning the hope of saving civilians - sets out on a solo mission to keep his family alive (whilst also making time for some amateur couple's therapy sessions in the meantime).

Alexandra Daddario in San Andreas
Alexandra Daddario stars in San Andreas Think Jam) (Warner Bros

Comparisons can't help but be drawn to 2012's The Impossible, as it shares the same current of 'desperation to find your own family in the midst of disaster', but the two movies couldn't be further apart.

Whilst the audiences of The Impossible were on the edge of their seats, willing the starring family wholeheartedly to be reunited, there is no doubt that the Gaines family will triumph, making for a very predictable movie.

That said, as a visual spectacle San Andreas delivers on everything it promises in its promotion. Viewers simply looking for a thrill will undoubtedly feel satisfied when leaving the cinema, as despite its flaws, it does have some truly shocking moments of devastation that will leave you gaping in sheer horror that something like that could happen.

Scientists have proven that an earthquake of such magnitude couldn't happen, but this is Hollywood and suspension of disbelief is crucial here - chances are you're not going in to it expecting to come out educated.

In the run-up to the release of the movie, Johnson said he wanted to portray a "grounded and real" character in an extreme environment. Sadly, when you're The Rock, that is a feat that proves difficult, and here, impossible.

Johnson's isn't the only character that lends itself to stereotype either. Paul Giamatti's bespectacled seismologist, Lawrence, spends all of his time on-screen babbling geek-speak and frantically drawing on maps demonstrating to the other characters (and subsequently to the audience) the scale of the impending follow-up quakes - which narrates in real-time much of the linear plot. Meanwhile, Gruffudd's Daniel plays out to be the spineless antithesis of Johnson's valiant and loyal hero.

Dwayne Johnson in San Andreas
Dwayne Johnson swoops from above to rescue his estranged family from disaster Think Jam) (Warner Bros

If it's meant to be poking fun at the clichés of the genre - the over-emphasised heroism, larger-than-life CGI devastation, and going for the record number of times it's possible to say "oh my god" in the space of two hours - then it's one of the year's best films so far!

They did cast The Rock after all - an actor synonymous with saving the day dramatically, whilst brandishing a cheeky grin and dropping a classic one-liner. However, claiming itself to be a straight-up action thriller, it's unlikely that that was the initial intent.

Regardless, on a purely blockbuster level, the film's bravery to go 'full-on cheese' is something that ironically, makes it worth a watch. Its corny dialogue is utterly hilarious, which will see Johnson spouting lines as good as "It's been a while since I got you to second base" whilst parachuting onto a baseball pitch with his estranged wife to escape a plane crash.

Although this is certainly not the first disaster/city devastation movie that has featured humour in it, other films that have employed such traits have involved a villainous entity of some sort. Independence Day had those pesky aliens and Godzilla had, well, Godzilla. In San Andreas there is no bad guy to hate on – it's Mother Nature's wrath alone and that might be why the humour sits a little uneasy.

Despite its hilarity being an honest highlight, the real trouble with San Andreas, particularly when considering the horrific events in Nepal recently, is how guilty it makes you feel for laughing.

Whilst you feel terrible for doing so because of what is happening on screen, you are enjoying it, occasionally even cheering when some of the lesser-liked characters meet their demise. Threads of sadness come from Ray and his family's tragic backstory too, which interject the funny moments so awkwardly at times that you don't know whether to giggle or shed a tear.

Can it get away with it seeing as it's so obviously on an exaggerated scale? Well, that question can solely be answered by individual watching the movie. Some may think so, others might take a different stance. But essentially it comes down to this; is San Andreas entertaining? Yes. Should it be though? Probably not.

Three Stars Film Rating Stars