THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW
*** (out of 5)
May 28, 2004
Dennis Quaid as JACK HALL
Jake Gyllenhaal as SAM HALL
Emmy Rossum as LAURA CHAPMAN
Dash Mihok as JASON EVANS
Jay O. Sanders as FRANK HARRIS
Sela Ward as DR. LUCY HALL
Ian Holm as TERRY RAPSON
Kenneth Welsh as VICE PRESIDENT BECKER
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
BY KEVIN CARR
Let’s be frank. I don’t think anyone (with the possible exception of Al Gore) is going to see “The Day After Tomorrow” with the thought that it is remotely plausible. Director Roland Emmerich has tread in the territory of ludicrous plots before. But I still enjoyed his rendition of “Godzilla,” and I’m not bracing myself for a gargantuan radioactive iguana to attack the eastern seaboard.
Emmerich’s style of disaster can be summed up with one word: BIG. It’s huge. Forget “Earthquake.” Forget “The Towering Inferno.” If only this was so contained. The body count reaches the tens of millions – and that’s just in the U.S. Entire cities are wiped out by weather anomalies like F-5 tornadoes in Los Angeles, a 50-foot storm surge that submerges New York City and a hurricane/blizzard hybrid bringing temperatures south of -150° F.
So, basically if you want to see Mother Nature kick some butt, this is your bag.
“The Day After Tomorrow” is junk science at its best. But what do you expect from a film inspired by a self-proclaimed “nonfiction” novel co-written by Art Bell? Don’t get me wrong. I love Art Bell. Been listening to him for years. But he’s a kook. Regardless of your stand on UFOs, you can’t ignore Bell’s checkered past with the Heaven’s Gate fiasco, his doom and gloom Y2K predictions and his declarations of a “global change” he referred to as “The Quickening,” Bell is the king of all kooks.
I’m not even going to start to pick apart the science on this film, though. It’s like trying to judge Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” on historical accuracy. Suffice to say that the science is a mess, and you should take it with a grain of salt as you would the science behind “Star Wars.”
The only real danger here is that some people out there – in spite of Art Bell reminding his radio audience that this is a work of fiction for entertainment purposes – will think that the events in “The Day After Tomorrow” are right around the corner.
But let’s not worry about this lunatic fringe. With the slop science out of the way, this is one of the most intense disaster films I’ve seen.
The structure of “The Day After Tomorrow” is strikingly familiar to Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster “Independence Day.” It is told with multiple storylines around the world showing characters in different parts of the world reacting to a sudden climate shift on Earth. Caused by global warming, the North Atlantic Current is shifting south and taking away the warm weather that we enjoy in the U.S. and Europe.
To Emmerich’s credit, he does not preach to us. Sure, there’s your standard lines about global warming and how we need to stop destroying the Earth, but these are limited (although you do need a strong stomach to withstand a big speech at the end of the film). Instead of making this a movie about the environment, Emmerich makes it just a special effects spectacle for the summer movie audience. Good choice.
Sure, there are characters in the film. Dennis Quaid plays a climatologist trying to second guess the superstorm. Jake Gyllenhaal plays his ornery son stuck in New York on a school trip. Ian Holm plays a Scottish scientists who first figures out what’s happening. And Kenneth Welsh plays a not-so-subtle caricature of Vice President Dick Chaney.
However, the human element is largely forgettable in the wake of the special effects spectacle of the film. This actually becomes the film’s strength. Unlike the 1998 disaster flick “Deep Impact,” Emmerich tries not to bore the audience with too much human emotions.
Does “The Day After Tomorrow” serve as a call to action or a warning for the future? Depends on the kind of person you are. If you’re walking around with sandals over your socks, if you’ve got your radio permanently tuned to NPR, if you watch PBS even during the telethons, if you’re chugging along the highway at a whopping 57 miles per hour in hybrid car that weighs less than you do, then you’ll be moved by this film. You’ll applaud at the end, like a handful of my compatriots at the press screening I attended. (And let me tell you, it’s a Herculean feat to get any reviewer to applaud a film nowadays.)
But for the rest of America, go see the film for the special effects or because you think Jake Gyllenhaal is hot. This is a big, dumb disaster flick no different than “Van Helsing” as a big, dumb action/horror flick or “Troy” as a big, dumb sword-and-sandal flick.