Disaster movies are back. I watched one on TV, about asteroids slamming into the Earth and causing a devastating worldwide epidemic of bad acting. Also there are two disaster movies about volcanoes, including one set in Los Angeles, although I doubt that a volcano would faze real L.A. residents, a courageous group of people who think nothing of building luxury homes on steep hillsides made entirely of mud:
MRS. L.A. HOMEOWNER: Well, our hillside home is finally done!
MR. L.A. HOMEOWNER: Let's go inside!
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(He touches the doorknob, causing the house to slide down the hillside and break into 73 million pieces.)
MR. L.A. HOMEOWNER: Not again!
MRS. L.A. HOMEOWNER: Don't feel bad! The brush fire was almost here anyway!
MR. L.A. HOMEOWNER: I know! As soon as this earthquake tremor is over, let's build another luxury home on this exact spot!
MRS. L.A. HOMEOWNER: Why ever not?
I myself have experienced only one real disaster, Hurricane Andrew, and it was considerably different from the disaster movies that I've seen. For one thing, in the movies, there's always some kind of romance interest; whereas after Hurricane Andrew, nobody in the affected area was able to take a shower for approximately two months. Everybody smelled like a cologne named Eau de Dead Goat. The most romantic thing people did during that time was refuel each other's generators.
But realism is not the point of a disaster movie. The point of a disaster movie is to have exactly the same script as every other disaster movie. Here it is:
(The movie opens in a suburban home, where, the heroine is having breakfast with her adorable son.)
HEROINE: Well, it's a peaceful day! No sign of any disasters!
SON: Mom, do you have a husband or romance interest?
HEROINE: No, Bobby, although I am a top scientist and very attractive.
(The phone rings.)
HEROINE: Uh-oh! I hope that's not a worker from the lab, calling to tell me about an impending disaster!
LAB WORKER: Trish, a disaster is impending!
HEROINE: I'll be right there! (To her son:) Bobby, you stay here and be vulnerable.
SON: Mom, will the disaster end up striking this exact house and placing me in grave danger?
HEROINE: Of course!
(We see an exterior shot of the White House. Inside, the president, looking grim, is holding an emergency Cabinet meeting.)
PRESIDENT: Haven't I seen that exterior shot before?
VICE PRESIDENT: It's the same one they use in the Tom Clancy movies.
PRESIDENT: OK, somebody set up the plot.
SCIENCE ADVISER: Mr. President, unless something is done, a disaster is going to strike in 90 minutes, sending miniature cars flying in all directions.
PRESIDENT: Ninety minutes! Why so long?
SCIENCE ADVISER: We need to build up the suspense.
GENERAL: Sir, we must launch a nuclear strike against Houston!
GENERAL: I hate Houston.
PRESIDENT (To the hero) : Jake, you're incredibly good-looking. I want you to take your minority sidekick and get over to the laboratory immediately and develop a romance interest with the heroine. If this movie is rated ``R,'' she can show her breasts.
HERO: I'll do what I can, sir.
(The next scene is in the laboratory. The hero and heroine are staring intently at a computer screen.)
HEROINE: . . . and so by using the mouse pointer, you can drag the three of clubs over onto the four of diamonds.
(A lab worker rushes up.)
LAB WORKER: Trish, the pantograph is giving us a vector plasma reading in the cosine range!
HERO: What does that mean?
HEROINE: Nothing. It's movie science gibberish. But it's time for the disaster! And my son is home alone!
(The scene shifts to the heroine's neighborhood. People are screaming; miniature cars are flying everywhere.)
HEROINE: This is terrible! Thousands of people are being killed!
HERO: It's OK! They're extras!
SON: Help! Help!
HEROINE: My God! It's Billy!
SON: No, it's Bobby!
HEROINE: Oh, right.
HERO: I'll save him!
HEROINE: Watch out for the special effects!
(The hero, dodging miniature flying cars, saves the son.)
HEROINE: Now we can be a family unit!
SON: With Val Kilmer? I thought the hero was going to be Tom Cruise.
HERO: He wasn't available.
(The final scene takes place back to the White House, where everybody is relieved.)
PRESIDENT: Whew! Although we lost 124 million people, all the main characters survived except the minority sidekick!
(The Cabinet applauds.)
GENERAL: So now can we attack Houston?
PRESIDENT: OK by me.