The Day After Tomorrow

Global warming. Personally, I blame the big hair bands of the 1980’s. Melting polar ice caps. Unpredictable weather. Severe storms. Biblical floods. Where did they think all of those free- floating fluorocarbons went? A decade of Twisted Sister and Night Ranger in exchange for a new ice age. Sounds like a fair trade to me.

Those looking to beat the Memorial Weekend heat might want to trade up to “The Day After Tomorrow,” an air-conditioned thriller that puts planet Earth on notice. Mother Nature becomes Calamity Jane as she rides into town with as much doomsday destruction $125 million can buy. That price tag includes one amazing special effects-driven set piece after another: residents of Tokyo dodging grapefruit-sized hail; Hawaiians braving hurricane winds; tornadoes rearranging the Los Angeles skyline; blizzards turning New Delhi into a winter wonderland.

Only one person suspects what is going on, climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), whose claims of a new ice age are immediately dismissed by those in charge (is it a coincidence that Kenneth Welsh’s Vice-President looks like Dick Cheney?). While Hall bends ears in Washington D.C., his son Matt (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in New York for a school competition. When the city is submersed by a giant wave and flash frozen by a freak storm cell, Hall begins a dangerous trek North to save his son.

On a human level, “The Day After Tomorrow” lacks emotional depth and reason. The script by director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) and Jeffrey Nachmanoff is serviceable at best, a mixture of pseudo-science mumbo jumbo and conspicuous character arcs. The dialogue is laughably bad, but then who goes to see a disaster movie for pearls of wisdom?

We go to see Earth’s weapons of mass destruction, and on that level, “The Day After Tomorrow” delivers. Emmerich and his legion of movie magicians work overtime creating convincing scenes of disaster and devastation. Technology allows the filmmakers to fill the frame with jaw-dropping visual mayhem, including an awesome wave that crawls through the streets of New York, forcing Matt and his classmates into the Manhattan Public Library, which quickly becomes an icy tomb.

The acting is of the “hit your mark and say your line” variety, but Quaid and Gyllenhaal manage to stay one step of the special effects. Ian Holm sits on the sidelines as Hall’s mentor, while Sela Ward is forced to play phone tag as Matt’s concerned mom.

If the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, I would rather have Emmerich holding the basket than Karen Black in the cockpit.

New York Weathers Another Disaster


Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Rated PG-13. 124 Minutes.


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