Because Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) runs the Office of Emergency Management in Los Angeles, the latest Southern California earthquake is well within his domain. But this earthquake is no ordinary tremor, for it marks the activation of a long-dormant volcano under the megalopolis. Second in a line of clues to this subterranean menace is the death of a few utility workers who were underground at the wrong time. While other city officials are hesitant to cut off subway access, power, and gas to affected areas, Roark springs into action by conferring with pretty seismologist Amy Barnes (Anne Heche). Unfortunately, the only hard data she can provide him comes a little too late as half of the city is thrown into turmoil.
Roark thinks that to dam up the flow of lava down Wilshire Avenue will end his problems, but he has another think coming. Although that project is an enormous one, it pales in comparison to the one he must begin when it is later learned that the bulk of the lava flow still exists below street level.
For what its worth, "Volcano" is the disaster film that lives up to the legacy of last year's "Twister". The special effects are quite well done, though sometimes the computer-animated bits are less than convincing. Subplots about a dedicated nurse married to an unfeeling businessman and a white cop at odds with a hulking black man are ineffective, but thankfully take up little screen time. Better are the scenes between principal castmembers Jones, Heche, Gaby Hoffman, and Don Cheadle. For mindless mayhem, "Volcano" will do until the real summer blockbusters roll around.