Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: May 10, 1996

Director: Jan de Bont
Helen Hunt
Bill Paxton
Cary Elwes
Jami Gertz
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Lois Smith
Alan Ruck
Sean Whalen
Scott Thomson
Todd Field
Joey Slotnick
Wendle Josepher
Jeremy Davies
Zach Grenier
Gregory Sporleder
Dr. JoAnne 'Jo' Thornton-Harding
William Harding
Dr. Jonas Miller
Dr. Melissa Reeves
Dustin Davis
Meg Greene
Robert 'Rabbit' Nurick
Allan Sanders
Jason 'Preacher' Rowe
Tim 'Beltzer' Lewis
Twister movie poster
Twister started it all! Thanks to advances in digital special effects, this is a great movie to look at, but the script has enough holes to sink the Titanic! The effects are nothing short of stunning. The story is very amateurish, hard to believe for a Steven Spielberg produced film.

Jo Thornton-Harding is obsessed with tornadoes ever since the day, as a little girl, an F5 tornado destroyed her family's farm and sucked her father out of the storm cellar. I have no idea if this opening sequence of the movie is even possible when you are underground.

Jo is going through a contested divorce from husband Bill, a former partner in tornado research. "Contested" in that she is refusing to sign the final divorce papers. Bill has taken time off from his weather reporting duties, traveling with his new fiance Melissa, to track Jo down and make her sign the papers. This is the opening of the movie. Bill confronts Jo during a time a meteorological unrest. Tornadoes are breaking out in record numbers across the American Southwest. When Jo's team of graduate students breaks camp to chase a local tornado, Bill joins the team in an effort to get Jo to finalize the divorce. Well fellahs, a child of four can see where this movie is headed.

The "McGuffin" in this movie is Jo's attempts to launch "Dorothy", an experiment Bill conceived to try to learn the dynamics inside a tornado. "Dorothy", named after the main character in the Wizard of Oz, is a container filled with tiny sensors that will send back information about a tornado, from the inside. The problem is to get Dorothy into the cone of a tornado before the sensors are released. This is a critical plot point as several attempts to launch Dorothy fail.

To add some sort of suspense to this movie, a rival of Bill's, Dr. Jonas Miller, has developed a more sophisticated version of Dorothy. Bill is pissed that his chief rival is attempting to fulfill his "unrealized" dream. He agrees to help Jo just to beat the competition. At the center of Twister is a love story. Jo is desperately clinging to her failed marriage, while Bill is tired of dealing with Jo's obsession. This should make the movie interesting, but the human aspects of Twister take a distant second place to the special effects. Too bad!

The three main leads, Jo, Bill and Melissa, are boring, although Helen Hunt looks wonderful in her skin tight white top. Their rival Jonas is equally boring. I don't blame the accomplished actors, except Jami Gertz who looks completely out of place here. The script just does not let the leads do anything interesting.

The added half star to my review goes to Jo's grad students. They are the real joy of this movie. Their passions are unbridled as they chase tornadoes. The first chase scene cuts between the "Tornado Chasers" showing how each one psyches him/herself up. They each pop in different music: Alice Cooper, American Classical (the Lone Ranger Theme, I could be wrong), to the Oklahoma musical. But when the situation calls for it, they quickly slip into full professionalism.

Now for the "holes" I mentioned earlier. One of the most incredible sequences (looks great on the big screen) is when Jo and Bill find themselves trapped under a large log. Their truck is stuck (pardon the rhyme). As the tornado approaches, they look up to see a large gasoline tanker flying in the cone of the twister. The tanker truck briefly drops out of the cone of the twister to bump into Bill's truck before being sucked up again. Amazingly, Jo and Bill are not sucked up at the same time.

During the climactic finale, boards, lumber and various debris fly with reckless abandon, without hitting either of the fleeing Jo and Bill. Go figure! Not even a scratch!

The only really touching sequence is when Bill confronts Jo with her obsession claiming she is so "tunnel-visioned" with her research that "she can't see what's right in front of you. Me!" This one quick line is the best performance of the film delivered by Bill Paxon. The second best scene is the token shower sequence with Helen Hunt, unfortunately, the shower curtains get in the way. This alone would have added another half star to my review!

Twister looks good, very good! Just don't take it seriously!