Friday, June 4, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow Review

This end-of-the-world actioner posits that a sudden global climate shift, caused by our unending passion for burning fossil fuels, pushes the Earth into the next ice age. Needless to say, most scientists say that this process would take hundreds of years – for cinematic reasons, this sudden climate shift must occur over the course of a few days. Visually stunning, the film does a very convincing job of conveying to the viewer a sense of impending doom – the water rushing in and covering NYC is particularly affective. Of course, because everything must happen quickly in a film, the flood is converted almost immediately into a frozen sheet of ice-an impressive sight, but completely unbelievable.

As is the usual course of events, the plot must be peppered with stock characters that are caught in various dangerous situations and at varying levels of personal peril – I didn’t really buy any of them, especially the obviously-tacked-on ‘plot’ for Sela Ward, here wasted as the concerned mother of Jake Gyllenhaal. He emotes as much as he can with the limited number of lines afforded his quiet character—the brunt of the film is carried by paleoclimatologist Dennis Quaid, here playing a perfect copy of his aw-shucks coach role in ‘The Rookie.’ I kept waiting for him to suggest he and his son throw the ball around, playing catch atop some frozen sheet of ice. Various other crisis (the LA tornadoes feel especially unimportant) are added in to give this film the illusion of plot, but they are mainly artificial and easily ignored.

The best parts of the film were those moments where witty asides, meant only for the audience, are peppered in between the scenes of destruction. In one scene, thousands of fleeing Americans are barred from entering Mexico and they are seen wading across the Rio Grande. But – wait for it – they’re going South! Ha ha that is funny. See, they’re doing a sort of national reverse commute. Do you get it? Soon the border is opened when the U.S. Government agrees to forgive all of Mexico’s debt. That throwaway line is far more witty and ironic than this broad film deserves, but I see what the director was doing. It’s like Shrek – the broad humor is in there for the kiddies, lots of bright colors and distractions, but they have also included a lot of witty, less-than-obvious jokes for the grown-ups in the audience. Overall, a good film-better than Godzilla and more believable than Independence Day. At least no one saves the world with a Mac.

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