It’s hard not to think about what a physical copy of the “2012” script looked like at its first pitch meeting. It was probably a stack of inky cocktail napkins covered in pepperoni and Twizzlers that landed with a thud on the desk of startled producer Mark Gordon. Writer-director Roland Emmerich, at the time, was likely across the office with a potted fern doing the Stanky Legg.


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“What is this?” Gordon might have asked, wary of the thick pile of napkins bubbling with cheese on top of his credenza.

“That,” Emmerich could have replied with a crazy smile, “is the most awesomely terrible movie ever written.”

And that’s precisely what “2012” is. It’s awful. It’s almost three hours of CGI, a screaming John Cusack (“1408”) and hilariously decayed bits and pieces of the disaster film genre. It should have been titled “Obvious Explosions.” But if the audience can switch off its brain, suspend its immense disbelief and relish the lunacy of Cusack’s aimless flailing, viewers will find that “2012” is a moronic guilty pleasure — a triple-bacon mushroom-swiss burger of celluloid.

The plot of “2012” is just a series of giant explosions. Though the film employs an ensemble cast of highly respected actors, Cusack’s drooling, unintelligible performance as failed novelist Jackson Curtis blows his companions out of the water for all the wrong reasons, with Cusack occasionally screaming in pseudo-English throughout the film.

In “2012,” Emmerich, the director, decides to kill the president by smashing the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, a ship stationed in Philadelphia, into the north lawn of the White House as it rides a giant tsunami wave. It becomes immediately clear once again that the film is not remotely capable of subtlety.

By the film’s repetitive, destructive second hour, viewers may wonder if “2012” is actually a darkly brilliant glimpse into the tortured mind of Cusack’s character, who imagines the world around him crumbling as he sees his own professional aspirations dissipate.

The film also features Chiwetel Ejiofor (“American Gangster”), who plays a young geologist explaining how giant volcanoes are going to destroy Las Vegas. His straight-faced performance, however, is so self-serious it’s almost annoying. Ordinarily an audience should be grateful when an actor delivers a sincere dramatic performance. But Ejiofor is so oblivious to the ridiculousness around him that one can’t help but wish he would start picking his nose on screen. Fortunately, Woody Harrelson (“Zombieland”) picks up the slack as a crazy-but-not-really conspiracy theorist who subsists on a strict diet of giant pickles and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Even in the face of the trashy fun, there are genuinely frustrating aspects of “2012.” At two hours and 40 minutes, the film is unbelievably long. The world’s most famous landmarks can only digitally crumble to bits so many times before the audience gets bored. More pressingly, this film has already been made dozens of times, a few of those times by Emmerich himself. “2012” borrows heavily from its director’s earlier films “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

The film might make for a fun drinking game upon its DVD or made-for-TV release, with the events in the movie being so incredibly predictable. In the theater, however, it’s reasonable to expect more from a $260-million film.

As a work of cinema, “2012” deserves no stars. It’s a horrible film with horrible acting and horrible editing. But as an experience, as a ride, as a freakish and brainless parade of explosions, it earns five Mountain Dews, ten bags of beef jerky and three lower-back tattoos.

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