It's enough, by golly, to make you run home to build a storm cellar.

TWISTER

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Twister" is a thundering announcement that the summer blockbuster season has arrived. Driven by new technology that makes all things possible, this one is a walloping good powerhouse course in tornado lore. It's also a barrel of fun. Don't waste even a second being irritated by details. The marvel of digital computing eclipses all the silliness. With a company called Industrial Light and Magic in charge of special effects, this story doesn't need much else. They have hit a home run.

In a rousing opener, a Midwestern farm family and their Totoesque dog try to ride out a monster tornado in their storm cellar. The father is killed, and the little girl grows up to be Jo (Helen Hunt), a scientist obsessed with developing an early warning system for these vicious rogue storms that strike unannounced. Based on an idea hatched by her estranged husband, Bill (Bill Paxton), she has designed a giant canister of electronic sensors that she wants to feed into a storm funnel to send back data to the scientific world.

The movie's canvas is a series of twelve linked storms sweeping over the vast, flat, oil-rigged fields of Oklahoma. How many tornadoes will be spawned by these storms, and can our crew get close enough to inject the canister into the maelstrom without killing themselves? It's a dandy premise.

Jo's tornado crew is a passionate gang whose eyes grow wild with excitement at the first sign of a cone. Dusty (Alan Ruck) is a slothful chunk who comes alive in a crisis, shouting lines like "Saddle up!" Jo's Aunt Meg (Lois Smith) is a flinty sculptor who can be counted on to serve up eggs and steak for a dozen exhausted storm chasers without advance notice.

Just as storm number one bears down, Jo's almost ex-husband Bill drops by to pick up the divorce papers he needs in order to marry Melissa (Jamie Gertz), a reproductive therapist who advises clients about their sperm counts by cell phone while careening toward the "battle zone" in a convoy of 4x4s.

Since we know instantly that Jo and Bill will reunite, we can relax and enjoy the sight of pale, urban Melissa self-destructing in front of the tornado cowboys and the gritty, intelligent Jo, who looks great in her white tank top as she readies her instrument pack for the "suck zone" of an approaching funnel.

Helen Hunt's Jo is full of life and credibility; Bill Paxton comes through even though he looks like a natural for a Calvin Klein billboard. This is a special-effects movie bonanza that makes a blue-ribbon euphemism of the phrase "Run for it!" In the best of all blockbuster combinations, this one is both fast and interesting. You can imagine what comes our way in the last reel when Jo's airborne canister meets a tornado classified as an F5 "The Finger of God." It's enough, by golly, to make you run home to build a storm cellar.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h45m


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