The Kondelik brothers’ “Airplane vs. Volcano” sadly doesn’t feature a sentient volcano battling an airplane that talks like KIT from “Knight Rider.” It’s instead a movie very much in the vein of the classic 1970’s disaster movies, with classic TV stars and all. When all was said and done, it watches like an extended episode of a daytime soap opera, with a premise that feels suspiciously like a retread of “Airplane!” Also, Robin Givens is still very beautiful.
That said, the “Airplane!” flashbacks kept coming as Dean Cain is an Army vet forced to fly a doomed commercial airplane with the help of a stewardess, and fly it back home without crashing it. Meanwhile the pilots are taken out of commission, and they’re constantly checked up on by an older ally on board. Rather than Leslie Nielsen though, we get Laurence Hilton Jacobs, who is still very entertaining no matter what the film he’s in. A group of passengers flying in a commercial plane have the unfortunate luck of being stuck in the middle of a massive circle of volcano eruptions. The lava and explosions have trapped it in to an endless vortex of heat and lava, and Dean Cain’s character Rick Pierce struggles to fly it through the circle of erupting volcanoes while keeping it in the air and save lives.
Thankfully “Airplane vs. Volcano” isn’t the awful waste of time the title makes it seem. It props itself up as something in the vein of “Sharknado” with its ridiculous title, but in reality it’s much more restrained and a very straight faced action disaster film. At least it really tries to be taken as a straight faced action film. Surely, it ends up being silly, but only because it really tries to build melodrama and conflict, and fails half the time. The conflict tends to be painfully forced, which will surely prompt some inadvertent giggles from the audience. There’s a German passenger who begins provoking the passengers in to an uproar when he suspects the original pilot was killed during turbulence.
Pierce is faced with war flashbacks while suffering from a painful gash on his hand, Jacobs’ Air Marshall character takes an uncomfortable affection toward a young blond passenger and her son, and her son even poorly fakes vomiting in one instance (I’m sorry, that was the worst mock vomiting I’ve ever heard). Meanwhile in the ground, Robin Givens plays Lisa, an air traffic control officer, and ex army vet who helps Rick as best as she can, while shouting orders at soldiers and staff members. “Airplane vs. Volcano” achieves what it sets out to do. It’s a tightly directed, and entertaining action picture that commits itself to the formula of the classic Irwin Allen disasterpieces. While it doesn’t re-invent the wheel in its sub-genre, it’s worth a watch for its consistent pace, and straight faced absurdity.