[Screen It]


(1997) (Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None Mild Mild Heavy Minor
Mild None Moderate None Moderate
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Minor Minor Minor Mild *Extreme

Action/Adventure: A volcano erupts in downtown Los Angeles and a city official and a seismologist try to stop its inevitable flow through the city.
An earthquake shakes Los Angeles and Mike Roark (TOMMY LEE JONES), the director of the Office of Emergency Management, steps in to see that everything's okay. As he makes sure that thirteen-year-old daughter Kelly (GABY HOFFMAN) is safe, he checks in with his associate, Emmit Reese (DON CHEADLE) who's heading up the operation at their headquarters. Strange geological events, however, cause Roark to consult with seismologist Amy Barnes (ANNE HECHE) who believes that lava has been unleashed by the earthquake and poses a serious threat. Before Roark can verify that prediction, the lava erupts and destroys neighborhood after neighborhood. As emergency room doctor Jaye Calder (JACQUELINE KIM) tends to the wounded, Roark and Barnes try to figure out how to stop or divert the lava flow before it destroys most of the city.
If they're into disaster films or liked this year's earlier lava flick, "Dante's Peak," they will.
For intense depiction of urban disaster and related injuries.
  • TOMMY LEE JONES plays the no-nonsense director who works hard to ensure that everything is done to protect the people and property in Los Angeles.
  • ANNE HECHE plays a seismologist who helps Roark in figuring out how to deal with the lava flow.


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    As we enter the end of the 1990's, the most influential person in Hollywood isn't Spielberg or Schwarzenegger or Cruise. It's Irwin Allen. Yes, the man who brought us all of those big scale epic disaster films (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, etc...) is now the grandpa to this era's new crop of nature's destructive mayhem. From last year's "Twister" to this year's earlier lava film, "Dantes Peak," the Allen influence continues with the release of "Volcano" (which will be followed later this year by "The Flood"). More aptly named "Lava" -- since the actual volcanic peak doesn't form until the movie's end -- this film is filled with the prerequisite loud soundtrack, big fireball explosions, and flashy special effects. All of that of course signals that the plot and any character depth are nearly left out of the production, leaving us to marvel at the lava and those who have close encounters with it. Basically a one note plot -- the humans try to stop the "evil" lava flow before it destroys L.A. -- the movie works on its basic level, but doesn't offer much more. Tommy Lee Jones yells and bellows his orders and generally recreates his U.S. Marshall character from "The Fugitive," but leaves out the nice touches that earned him an Academy Award. Heche and Kim are competent in their roles but aren't given a great deal with which to work. Fairing worse is Hoffman who goes from rebellious teen to whimpering kid to sturdy adolescent without being very believable. Of course one shouldn't expect that in a film where lava is the main attraction, but as in "Dante's Peak" the lava flow doesn't make for the speediest of foes, so this film adds "lava bombs" that shoot out of the ground and conveniently land atop buses and homes while missing the wide-open streets for the most part. A little of that, and of the lava, goes a long way and soon becomes rather mundane to watch. Once the film makers learn that with a little character development they can make great disaster films, we'll be getting somewhere. They haven't done that with this film and thus we give it a 5 out of 10.
    The two biggest issues of concern in this production are the profanity and the nightmare inducing quality of the lava flow. 20+ "s" words and others are heard throughout the production. While older children will probably be mesmerized by the lava and its destructive path, younger children might be terrified that this will happen in their backyard or city. While gore is kept to a relative minimum, the destruction is vast and several people are killed and many are threatened by the never ceasing flow. Thankfully there's no man made violence (other than blowing up a street and building to stop the lava) toward others, and sexual content is relegated to one minor comment. Since many kids will want to see this film, we suggest that you examine the content before allowing them to do so.

  • None.
  • A worker is pulled from a storm sewer and half his face is blackened and charred from an encounter with the lava. Other bodies are seen being zipped up into body bags (with only a charred leg briefly being seen).
  • A subway driver's face is a little bloody after his train has derailed.
  • Some blood is seen on an overturned fire truck's window.
  • A white cop calls a black man "bro" after a fender bender turns into an argument.
  • People loot stores after the eruption has caused panic and mass confusion.
  • Jaye's husband/boyfriend wants her to leave with him, but she stays to help the wounded. He then asks if she's going to "die for total strangers" and when she won't leave, he leaves without her.
  • Many of the scenes where the lava is approaching and then engulfing and burning people, cars, and other objects might just terrify younger children and induce nightmares or worries about lava coming after them. Likewise, several earthquake scenes may frighten the same children.
  • Roark and an associate slowly creep through a tunnel where others were recently killed and then have an encounter with the lava.
  • An associate of Barnes falls into a fissure and Barnes tries to pull her out but an explosion knocks her back and her friend falls into the opening.
  • There are many scenes of mass mayhem and of "lava bombs," big chunks of burning rocks, falling to the ground that some may find to be tense.
  • Roark must simultaneously deal with freeing an injured man in an overturned fire truck, and saving his daughter, both of whom are trapped by the lava flow.
  • A little dog flees from the lava flow in its house and just makes it outside in time.
  • Roark and Barnes are trapped in a triangle made from an overturned bus, a downed and burning tree, and the approaching lava. They're hoisted up by a crane and precariously dangle over the lava as the end of the crane begins to come apart and they nearly land in the lava.
  • Workers try to rescue subway passengers from their derailed cars as the lava flow approaches. One man tries to jump to safety but lands in the flow and burns away as he sinks into the flow.
  • Roark runs to rescue Kelly and a young boy as a series of preset explosions go off near them.
  • Handguns: Used by the police to shoot out a bus' tires so that they can flip the bus over.
  • Explosives: Used to blow up the street (to create a channel for the lava) and to knock down a building to divert the lava flow.
  • Phrases: "Stick your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye," "Shut up," "Idiots," "Geeks," "Jerk," and "Pin head."
  • Kelly mentions that she's going to get her nose pierced (but it never happens).
  • People loot stores after the eruption has caused panic and mass confusion.
  • None.
  • There is a moderate amount of suspenseful music.
  • None.
  • 1 incomplete phrase using the "f" word ("What the..."), 22 "s" words, 13 hells, 8 damns, 2 "ass" words, and 8 uses of "Oh God," 4 of "God damn," 3 each of "God" and "Oh my God," 2 uses of "Jesus" and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "Oh Jesus," "My God," and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • A man mockingly says to Emmit, "That's a nice hat," to which Emmit jokingly replies, "Funny, that's what your wife said when she rolled over this morning."
  • There's a quick shot of a billboard of the Marlboro man with his cigarette.
  • A man on the street smokes.
  • A man is often seen with a cigarette behind his ear (and a nicotine patch on his neck). As the events worsen, he smokes the cigarette.
  • Roark is separated from his wife, but none of that seems to have much of an effect on their daughter Kelly.
  • Roark has Jaye take Kelly to the hospital and from that point on, the father and daughter are separated and worry about each other.
  • Earthquakes, volcanoes, lava, and whether children should worry about this happening in their city or town.
  • A young kid mentions that by the end everyone looks the same (from being covered in grey soot), meaning that no matter the race or nationality, everyone pitched in to help.
  • The volcano causes all of the violence that occurs in the movie.
  • Several men are killed and one wounded after an encounter with the lava in a storm sewer.
  • Many vehicles, homes and other buildings are burned or destroyed by the encroaching lava and/or the "lava bombs" that fall from the sky. In addition, many people are killed (over one hundred we're told with thousands injured) but few of the deaths or injuries are seen.
  • A man is briefly seen totally engulfed in flames.
  • Workers try to rescue subway passengers from their derailed cars as the lava flow approaches. One man tries to jump to safety but lands in the flow and burns away as he sinks into it.
  • Preset explosives blow up the street and knock down a building as Roark and the others try to stop the lava flow.

  • Reviewed April 25, 1997

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