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Mr. Brown Goes Into the Storm

Say, you liked disaster flicks like Twister, The Day After Tomorrow, The Perfect Storm and 2012; and you flocked to watch found footage/POV features like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and the Paranormal Activity series, so here you go, America - a natural disaster flick with shaky camera work! It's a sure-fire hit; just step back and watch the money roll in!

Maybe I'm being too harsh. I'm sure this wasn't how first time screenwriter John Swetnam and producer Todd Garner pitched the film when the script was given the green light to start production. But I really do wonder if the people inside of the pitch meeting at Warner Brothers had a moment of pause and thought, 'Isn't this just a remake of "Twister" but with found footage slapped on?' Then again, this is the same town that thought Movie 43 and Catwoman had decent scripts to go into production, so I guess this shouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Please don't have sharks in that forthcoming tornado, please don't have sharks in that forthcoming tornado...
I will say this about Into the Storm: the visual effects are quite good. The film's best scene comes from two high-powered tornadoes that combine to form one super-powered twister that tears through a high school and lays to waste an airport and picks up commercial planes like they were 5 lb dumbbells. It's a really impressive action sequence, as are most of the other sequences in the film, especially since the film's budget was reportedly $50 million. You can see where most of the money went. Too bad they couldn't have spent more on re-working a script that's cliched and implausible.

Storm chaser Pete (Matt Walsh of HBO's Veep) and meteorologist Allison (The Walking Dead's Sarah Wayne Callies) are chasing tornadoes across the Midwest, where they hear of a huge storm that's about to hit the town of Silverton. In said town, the Vice-Principal of Silverton High School, Gary Morris (played by Richard Armintage) is juggling both the graduating class ceremony and his two distant teenage sons, Trey (Nathan Kress of iCarly fame) and Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter). And rounding out the cast are two stereotypical rednecks (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) who are trying to become Internet celebrities, but come off as lame Jackass rejects that even Johnny Knoxville wouldn't want to have around. When the storm hits, our heroes fight to stay alive as it becomes more unpredictable and deadly by the second. Sounds like a fun, thrilling setup, right?

Wrong. As I said before, the spectacle is undeniably impressive, but the characterization in Into the Storm is so bland that calling the characters one-dimensional isn't doing it justice, and the decisions made by most of them range from stupid to extremely implausible. Pete is so consumed by his goal of chasing this one big storm system that he comes off as unpleasant to work with and gets his crew-members in mortal peril because he wants up-close footage of the twisters he and his team are chasing; the Gary/Trey/Jacob arc is the classic 'rebuilding the family unit' we've seen in countless blockbusters; and the two rednecks are so aggravating that you end up cheering for the tornadoes to suck up the dust bunnies the film calls comic relief within 2 minutes of meeting them. Even the direction by Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) is haphazard. The look and feel of the film constantly switches back and forth from the found footage/POV look, to the traditional third-person one, all the way to the third act, where the found footage is almost abandoned entirely. Look: keep the flow of the narration consistent, because all it did was take me out of the story and made me guess which scenes used the found-footage format and when it was abandoned.

Into the Storm borrows from other better weather disaster flicks, but it doesn't have the interesting story and characters of Jan De Bont's Twister, and little of the self-awareness of Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow. Sure, it has great visuals and well-placed action scenes, but that's all that it has going for it. The story isn't developed, the characters are too one-dimensional and make stupid decisions that put themselves in danger, and the direction is some of the clunkiest I've seen all year. Even if you're deciding what to watch because Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are sold out, you'd be better off watching Lucy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or Hercules than spending almost 90 minutes watching this clunky thriller.

* 1/2 stars out of ****

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