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Dante's Peak

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Dante's Peak Movie Poster Image
Volcano erupts violently and destroys town; intense peril.
  • PG-13
  • 1997
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

When the star volcanologist of the U.S. Geological Survey tells you a volcano is about to blow, it's advisable to listen.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harry demonstrates his resourcefulness and calm in stressful situations.

Violence

Many people narrowly escape death and some are killed as a volcano erupts. A man is nearly crushed in a car by falling boulders. A woman is burned by lake waters turned to acid by volcanic activity. Her raw wounds are seen briefly. Cars crash into each in the rush to escape disaster. A bridge collapses with cars on it. A man on the bridge escapes his car but is swept into the water. Burning lava melts a car's tires. A small boat carrying evacuees starts to melt in an acid lake. Burning lava rolls through a living room. A man is hit by falling rocks and breaks his leg. A naked couple is roasted by lava bubbling up through a hot spring. Buildings collapse and burning lava flows in rivulets through town.  A steeple crashes, as does a helicopter.

Sex

Two adults kiss. The word "nooky" is mentioned. A naked couple take a dip in hot springs. No body parts are seen.

Language

"S--t" and "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink beer and whisky in a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dante's Peak is a 1997 disaster movie about a small town called Dante's Peak that sits at the foot of a dormant volcano of the same name. When seismic activity detected by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests the possibility that the volcano is coming to life, a team of experts come to have a look and discover, too late, that the thing's about to blow. The second half of the film dwells on the violent demise of the town and many of its citizens and structures. Buildings come down, cars crash, and bridges collapse, sending people to their deaths in churning rivers. A woman walks through an acid lake to help save her family, leading to her death. Some evacuees drive into a mine to hide from the catastrophe outside and get trapped there as debris shuts them in. Language includes "s--t" and "ass." The word "nooky" is mentioned. A naked couple take a dip in hot springs. No body parts are seen.  

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What's the story?

DANTE'S PEAK follows the tried-and-true formula for disaster movies -- a high-paid, good-looking movie star is in a position to first warn disbelievers of impending calamity, then perform heroics in to save regretful naysayers. In this case, the movie star is Pierce Brosnan as Harry Dalton, a star volcanologist for the U.S. Geological Survey office, and the looming catastrophe is the roiling, lava-spewing mountain of the title, a volcano dormant for thousands of years but about to reduce its namesake small town into cinders and ash. The story opens with Harry escaping a Philippine eruption four years earlier that took the life of his girlfriend. Evacuees are seen running and screaming from the ash-spewing, fireball-spitting elevation, perfect foreshadowing for what is clearly the predetermined fate of little Dante's Peak, population 7,000. Buildings collapse, burning lava flows in rivulets through town. Volcanic activity turns a lake's water to acid. Through the destruction many are killed but our hero survives, having earned a love interest in the process.

Is it any good?

If nonstop chaos is your thing, then this will be your cup of tea. It provides all the harrowing special effects -- disintegrating buildings, volcanic fireballs, collapsing bridges, fiery lava rivers -- that you could want. Dante's Peak doesn't really bear deep analysis, but if one did give it much thought one might agree with Harry's superior, who first advised against evacuating an entire town just based on Harry's gut instincts, even though Harry later turned out to be right. Science ultimately, a little too late, bore out Harry's assessment, but the delay in evacuating in the face of impending doom certainly added tension to the otherwise predictable plot. Linda Hamilton does a fine job in the thankless role of the town's plucky mayor and generic love interest for Harry. But then the whole movie is no more than a well-executed exercise in the generic.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about different kinds of natural disasters. Would you prefer to live in an area prone to flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, or volcanic activity? Why?

  • What do you think about the kids who drove a truck through unsafe roads to help rescue their grandmother? Did they do the right thing? Why or why not?

  • How does the scariness of Dante's Peak compare to other violent or scary films you've seen?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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