Hollywood loves a good disaster and, let's face it, the end of the world looks cool as hell on screen. If you show us a bunch of exploding monuments, we'll buy a ticket.
But apparently Hollywood ran out of the really good disasters a long time ago, because sometimes they end up using disasters that appear to be just barely more than mild inconveniences. Such as:
When the La Brea Tar Pits inexplicably turn into a goddamn volcano, it's up to a plucky geologist (Anne Heche) and a Dedicated Emergency Management director who can't fry up scrambled eggs without injuring himself (Tommy Lee Jones) to save Los Angeles from the river of lava now flowing down Wilshire Boulevard.
Why They Should Calm The Hell Down:
After a character points out early in the film that some volcanoes can erupt with the force of a nuclear blast, we find out that, wait, no, the one under LA is really small. It barely erupts at all, really, just oozes lava down the street.
Here's the interesting thing about lava: It's not very fast. Wait, did we say interesting? We meant boring.
"Hurry, the lava's gaining on us, we only have three minutes. And six hours. And eleven days."
Sure, on a particularly steep slope, a lava flow might get up past 6 miles per hour but on more gentle inclines it tends to top off at about 1/2 a mile per hour, only slightly faster than a turtle can walk. So of course the movie has tons of scenes on steep inclines, so the lava can come rushing down on the characters, right?
Not at all! They even have a scene where a character sets a basketball on the street to figure out which way the ground is sloping, thus establishing firmly that Wilshire Blvd is the safest place on earth to be in the event of a volcano.
That leaves the screenwriters with the uncomfortable task of trying to find ways to make this easygoing safety hazard more exciting. So, in one scene, a palm tree catches fire and falls over, conveniently trapping the heroes between an overturned bus and the creeping tide of molten death. Later, a handful of people on a subway train have to be rescued because not one of them is smart enough to figure out how to use the door on a subway car without outside help.
Finally, the lava breaks several laws of physics to race across town via an underground tunnel and spring out of the middle of the road near Cedar Sinai Hospital, but then it just starts crawling along exactly the way it did on the other side of town.
How They Solve the "Problem":
How do you re-route a lava flow and send it harmlessly into the ocean? Simple: You blow up a huge fucking building! Seriously, to save the city from a threat that can be easily out-walked, they topple a large building, killing two people in the process. If they ever make a sequel, they should save a city from a glacier by burning down an orphanage.
"We'll build a lava blockade using every available fire truck."
Most Laughable Brush With "Danger":
An old lady walks away from the lava that's engulfing her house, but she left her tiny little dog inside! The dog, realizing that he's in no danger whatsoever, runs over to the lava and barks at it.
Then, he scampers out the doggy door to tell all his little doggy friends that lava is a huge pussy.