‘Greenland’ hits and misses as disaster saga

“Greenland”
Rated PG-13. On Amazon, VUDU, iTunes and more.
Grade: B
In the tradition of the late 1990s end-of-the-world dramas as “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” comes “Greenland,” and while the title doesn’t scream “it’s over, baby,” the film fits neatly into the genre. “Greenland” is also one of those apocalyptic thrillers that uses an “extinction level event” in an effort to patch up a troubled marriage. Honey, it took the end of the world, but at least we’re happy again.
Meet John Garrity (Paisley, Scotland-born Gerard Butler, speaking with his natural Scots accent). He’s a hunky, if heavily-lined construction engineer in Atlanta, whose marriage is on the rocks. His wife Allison (Brazil-born Morena Baccarin) is running 5 miles on the treadmill and locking him out of the bedroom for being an adulterer. They both love their son Nathan (a very goodRoger Dale Floyd of “Doctor Sleep”), who is diabetic. A comet jauntily named Clarke is approaching the Earth.
But the authorities are playing it down, claiming that it will break up and dissolve in the atmosphere, starting on the day of Nathan’s birthday party, of course. John gets a message on his phone telling him he and his family have been selected by Homeland Security to find shelter. His unhappy neighbors have not been selected.
Unfortunately, the family is turned away at the airport overrun by panicking people because of Nathan’s chronic illness. Separated from Allison and Nathan, who are picked up by a suspicious husband (David Denman) and wife (Hope Davis), John learns of pilots leaving for the shelter in eponymous Greenland from a border town airport in Canada. Will he and Allison and Nathan be reunited in time to get to Canada? Will they escape the molten rain? Also figuring in the by-the-numbers plot is Scott Glenn as Allison’s grizzled horse-farmer/widower father Dale and the Sorbonne and Oxford-schooled Irish-American Holt McCallany of “Mindhunter” in a small role.
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh (“Angel Has Fallen”) and executive produced by “Angel Has Fallen” star Butler, “Greenland” is pretty standard type of its genre with beats exactly where you expect them to be. Family united shakily. Family separated. Family reunited again, even more shakily. Here comes the Big One.
The screenplay by Chris Sparling, who wrote “Buried” (2010), a film that kept Ryan Reynolds in a coffin underground for 95 long minutes, is unremarkable, which could have been made to be a good thing. But it isn’t.
The CG effects are good, if also standard. The first fragment hits Florida like a nuclear bomb. Bogota is wiped out. A group throws an end-of-the-world party, toasting strikes. John hitches a ride in a truck and somebody with a hammer notices his bracelet, which gives him access to the rescue planes.
Mr. “This is Sparta” Butler is a better actor than he gets credit for and has charisma to spare. I’m looking forward to seeing him once again as “Big Nick” O’Brien in the upcoming “Den of Thieves 2: Pantera.” He and Baccarin have chemistry, and she also brings screen presence to the undertaking. You can see the value of hiring Glenn for his part, even if the crummy dialogue gets in the great actor’s way. In spite of a talented cast, “Greenland” struggles to be just OK.
(“Greenland” contains gruesome, disaster-movie type images and scares)

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