Reviewed by Dan Lybarger
February 6, 1997
Real volcanoes are difficult to predict; Danteís Peak isnít.
While the movie makes the devastation of a small Pacific town look mesmerizing and exciting (no small feat), it canít shake the annoying familiarity of the story.
The title city is a pleasant little burg that weíre told won a "livable city" award from Money magazine. The only hitch to living there is the dormant volcano that looms overhead. When the volcano starts acting oddly, vulcanologist Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) comes to investigate. Some rough data and his own feeling of dread convince him to put the town on alert. Despite some initial support from the townís mayor (Linda Hamilton), who by chance is a single mom, suspicious locals and his government bosses chastise him for causing panic.
Letís just say itíd be a boring movie if the volcano didnít erupt. Sreenwriter Leslie Bohem (Daylight) and director Roger Donaldson (Species) donít break any new ground on plot or character development, but they at least think of fascinating things for the volcano to do. The movieís second half gives Brosnan and Hamilton a terrifying obstacle course as they run to safety. Ash blankets the town, lava turns everything it touches to flames and even lake water poses a threat.
While thereís a lot here that merits being seen on the big screen, (the fate of a mountain cabin would look awfully shabby on home video) viewers canít escape their deja vu. Before the film is a third of the way through, who will live and who will die has already been established. Its almost as if the folks who made Danteís Peak followed genre-based rules similar to those outlined in Scream. Thereís nothing wrong with sticking to a formula (some of Irwin Allenís better disaster movies did), but itís a little bothersome when you can guess which seemingly minor clues will matter later in the story. Itís almost as if the words "plot point" were flashing across the screen.
As it stands Danteís Peak is a tolerable look in the mouth of a volcano, but it could have been even scarier if it were as unwieldy as the real thing (PG-13). Rating: 5.
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