A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Into the Storm is an extremely intense natural disaster film about how a group of storm chasers and a high-school assistant principal and his two teenage sons handle a deadly series of tornadoes that hits an Oklahoma town. The storm sequences are violent and deadly; each one leaves more devastation to buildings and people. Characters die, sometimes horrifically, during the storms, especially those who are swept up into a tornado vortex. The body count includes a few prominent characters, and everyone is in life-threatening peril. Language, which includes "s--t" and its many derivatives, is used in nearly every scene once the storms start hitting the town. There are also some references to sex and banging and hot women, but only a couple of actual kisses, one at the beginning and one at the end. Disaster movies can frighten some younger viewers even more than monsters or aliens or paranormal horror, so make sure you know whether your tween or teen can handle realistic depictions of weather catastrophes.
What's the story?
INTO THE STORM is a disaster film about filming disasters. Documentarian Pete (Matt Walsh) leads a five-person storm chasing unit: He drives a reinforced "Titus" tank that should withstand 170 mile-per-hour wind gusts, while meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) rides in a van with all of her satellite equipment. Desperate to get footage from right inside a storm, Pete pushes Allison to predict where the next tornado will hit, and she suggests heading to Silverton, Oklahoma. There, high-school junior Donnie (Max Deacon) is filming time capsule footage with his younger brother, Trey (Nathan Kress), as an end-of-the-year project for his emotionally distant dad, Gary (Richard Armitage), the school's assistant principal. When Donnie's long-time crush, Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey), needs help shooting a video internship application, he sneaks off with her to an old mill at exactly the same time as the first tornado heads to the school. After the first storm, Allison and Pete are astounded to see multiple additional tornadoes headed toward town, while Gary and Trey attempt to find and rescue Donnie and Kaitlyn, who are trapped underneath debris. As the storms keep coming, the storm chasers have to decide between profitable footage and possibly their lives.
Is it any good?
Audiences looking for the most jump-worthy storm sequences since Twister are in for some killer, genuinely gasp-worthy moments with Into the Storm. Because there are multiple tornadoes, there are plenty of harrowing, catastrophic scenes of the twisters touching down, plowing through neighborhoods, and sucking up everything from cars and planes to people (of course). Distracting from all the devastation is comic relief provided by two drunk yokels who think that if they follow the actual storm chasers around recording the storms with their phones, they'll score instant YouTube celebrity. It's not so funny when characters start getting killed, but these disaster movies apparently need all the laughs they can get -- like a throwaway one-liner about the aftermath looking like a zombie apocalypse, a wink-wink joke directed at Callies' devoted Walking Dead fans.
There's not much of a plot here beyond "storm chasers head to a town suffering from a day of awful back-to-back storm systems," but at least the performances are all up to the task. Armitage, best known as the severe dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit trilogy, is possibly the fittest high-school assistant principal ever and a believably righteous dad who will stop at nothing to save his sons; Callies is the level-headed foil to Walsh's greedy filmmaker, who seems to care more about tornado footage than possible casualties, and the young actors do their best to seize the moment, however doomed it might be for everyone else. Some laughable plot details might be hard for adults to overlook, but once the storms hit, you'll be too busy oohing and ahhing (or closing your eyes) to care.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the type of violence in a natural disaster movie versus that in war or sci-fi/superhero action movies. Are deaths and devastation scarier when they're caused by weather phenomena than by humans, aliens, or superheroes?
There's a lot of language in Into the Storm, but people are in life or death situations; does that make the language more believable or excusable, or is it unnecessary?
What makes for a good disaster film? How does this movie compare to similar movies?
- In theaters: August 8, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: November 18, 2014
- Cast: Richard Armitage, Jeremy Sumpter, Nathan Kress
- Director: Steven Quale
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Science and nature
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references
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