The kitsch of the disaster movie is its square-jawed tone of ''scientific'' anxiety. We may be watching an asteroid zip toward earth, or lava flow down Main Street, but the appeal of the preposterousness lies in thinking, Gee, this could maybe happen. But will anyone think that, for even a popcorn minute, of The Core? Early on, a chain of sinister warnings (pigeons crash from the sky, etc.) leads Aaron Eckhart, as a sexy professor with unwashed hair, to theorize the unthinkable: The world's molten core has stopped spinning!
The planet will be thrown into electromagnetic turmoil unless Eckhart, along with a team of physicists and pilots, journeys to the center of the earth and sets off a series of nukes to get that hot and gooey global center on its axis again. ''The Core,'' which comes down to a bunch of gifted actors (Hilary Swank, Bruce Greenwood, Delroy Lindo) trying to out-earnest each other as they sit around a cockpit and cruise through digital magma, feels like the sort of thing you might have caught on TV during a rainy Saturday afternoon in the late '60s. It's a schlockier ''Armageddon'' crossed with ''Fantastic Voyage,'' minus the fun.