"Moonfall" is not a movie. It's every movie.
A conspiracy thriller/alien invasion/monster/disaster/science fiction/romance, this cinematic casserole is frequently ridiculous and improbably entertaining. Halle Berry stars as the acting head of NASA, who's informed that the moon's orbit has shifted and it will collide with Earth in three weeks.
Because the world coming to an end is not enough to have on her plate, she has a kid to save, too. So she enlists a renegade ex-astronaut who also has a kid to save (Patrick Wilson) and a not-as-wacky-as-he-seems nerd with no kid to save (John Bradley) to rocket into space and do something about that ol' devil moon.
Disasters pile up in "Moonfall," including a typhoon, earthquakes and whatever a "gravity wave" is. The destruction rains down around Berry and Wilson but the real wreckage is in the script, which constantly forces the actors to finesse lines like, "Everything we thought we knew about the nature of the universe has just gone out the window" and "I didn't come all this way to fail" and "Your rules don't apply anymore."
It's like the greatest hits of bad action movies but it's actually perversely fun to watch the actors handle the dialogue. Berry opts to quietly underplay everything, which turns out to be the right call.
Director/co-writer Roland Emmerich knows this territory well. The world has almost ended in every movie he's ever made, including his biggie, "Independence Day," which "Moonfall" resembles in plot and ludicrousness.
He knows the key is to keep it moving quickly enough that we don't get bogged down in the details and to show us just enough of the monster — an outer-space menace that resembles a cross between a murmuration of starlings and the creature from "Alien" — to keep it mysterious and scary.
Emmerich even manages to interest us in the subsidiary story line of Berry/Wilson loved ones trying to race to safety back on Earth. (For future apocalyptic reference: Colorado is the place to go.) It helps that one of the loved ones is played by the invaluable Michael Peña, who makes his part seem much more interesting and funny than it actually is.
None of this sounds like a ringing endorsement and, obviously, "Moonfall" is not without flaws (some of the effects look chintzy, including a very obvious painted backdrop of the Rocky Mountains). But Emmerich knows that what we want from a disaster movie is for some nice people to survive and some evil people to fall into fissures in the Earth and for all of it to happen in the midst of cool-looking destruction.
I'm a person who usually gravitates toward inventive filmmaking, sparkling dialogue and insight into characters but there's something to be said for big dumb fun, which is why, in the case of "Moonfall," my rules don't apply anymore.
⋆⋆½ out of 4 stars
Rated: PG-13 for language and violence.
Where: Area theaters.