Atomic Twister (2002)
Directed by: Bill Corcoran
Starring: Sharon Lawrence, Mark Paul Gosselaar, Corbin Bernsen, Jonathan Blick, Daniel Costello, Carl Lewis
Surely, Atomic Twister is one of the greatest disaster movie titles ever? Not only will there be twisters, but they’ll be radioactive! Or something! Sadly, this made-for-tv movie doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the title.
It starts nice enough, though, with a young boy losing his mother who is sucked up into the sky by a big tornado. This turns out to be just a story, told by a boy named Campbell to his friends. His mother, Corrine (Sharon Lawrence), overhears the story and doesn’t like it. She is convinced the story reflects Campbell’s inner anger at having had to move with his mother to Tennessee after his parents divorced. Campbell assures her he isn’t angry, and that the story was told to him by their neighbor Jake, a young police officer that Campbell thinks is cool. Campbell then swiftly changes the subject and says that the young lady Jake can be seen kissing on his driveway is “really hot”.
Corrine doesn’t like this either, and confronts Jake (Mark Paul Gosselaar) about his habit of bringing different girls home, since she feels that will negatively affect Campbell’s attitudes towards women. Jake, being a grown man with a recently crashed relationship behind him, reasonably points out that two women in two months isn’t really an absurd display of promiscuity. Nevertheless, Corrine gets him to agree that he will spend the nights at the girl’s place instead.
Turns out that Corrine’s misgivnings about Campbell might be right, though. As soon as mom has left for work, Campbell, sly little bastard that he is, gets his shapely babysitter to play some Twister with him so he can ogle her perky breasts.
So, five minutes into the movie and we’ve established the main protagonist as an overprotective busybody, her son as a randy little geek, Jake as a pushover and the babysitter as a nice piece of ass. Good work! I really care about what happens to these people now!
Corrine works as a shift manager at the local nuclear plant. Shortly after she arrives at work, the plant is hit by a tornado, causing power losses that jeopardize the safety systems. As Corrine and her staff tries to shut down all non-vital systems, a second tornado hits. The pumps fail and the coolant starts to evaporate from the waste pool, which means the radioactive waste might be exposed and cause a meltdown. Finally, Corrine’s second-in-command sacrifices himself, exposing himself to lethal levels of radioactivity in order to shut down the reactor, while the fire department arrives and starts filling the waste pool with water to slow down the evaporation.
Meanwhile, Corrine’s house is also hit by the tornado, killing Campbell’s baysitter. Campbell gets on his bike and flees. Corrine gets deputy Jake to go looking for him. Jake finds Campbell, and while he’s at it he also manages to save his ex-girlfriend who gets trapped in her crashed car while yet another twister approaches. This seems to be a plot contraption to allow Jake to flash back to his childhood when he saw his mother being sucked into the sky by a twister. Yep, he’s the boy from the opening sequence, now finally overcoming the guilt that doesn’t seem to be tormenting him. Of course, the rescue also sets him up to get back with his ex at the end of the movie.
Corrine has found an old diesel generator that might get the coolant pumps running again. Jake intercepts a diesel truck and drives it to the plant. Despite Corrine’s best efforts, the generator won’t work – that is, not until she strips down to her figure-hugging tank top and kicks it. With the generator up and running, the plant – and this corner of Tennessee – is saved.
By the way, if the above sounds terribly exciting, I apologize for giving the wrong impression.
A word about the tornadoes in this film. An alternative title might have been “Twisters – silent but deadly”. It seems that no one sees or hears them coming before it is too late. Case in point is the security guard at the nuclear plant, played by none other than the Carl Lewis. Carl steps out of his little booth by the gates to make a phone call (none of the mobile phones in this movie seem to work indoors). It is somewhat windy, but behind him we see an overcast but reasonably calm sky. Carl hangs up and seems to sense something. He turns around and suddenly faces a huge tornado that apparently snuck up on him out of nowhere. Cunning little suckers! It turns out that not even Carl Lewis can outrun a twister.
Finding something nice to say about this one isn’t easy. The script is laughable, direction is inept, every character is supremely annoying, the visual effects are so-so and the acting is…well, let’s just say no awards were won. Actually, depending on your tastes, this one might actually be classified as “so bad it’s good”.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a trailer online, but here’s the scene where Campbell plays Twister with his babysitter…