June 3, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow (Review)

If I were to say I wandered into The Day After Tomorrow thinking I was going to get an education in global climate change, I think it would be safe for you to call me a moron.

I go to the movies for entertainment. Sometimes it’s a great story that entertains me. Other times it’s good characters, good acting, good dialogue. Sometimes it’s the sheer spectacle. Let me give you a hint about this film — it wasn’t the story or the dialogue that got me in the door.

Imagine, if you will, a widescreen videogame called “Sim Weather” where you have but one measure of control, and that is a “weather severity” knob. Wouldn’t you turn the thing all the way up to “11” just for fun? That’s what you get with this film, a big budget weather simulation where they couldn’t help but turn it all the way up just to see what would happen. To anchor the visuals, they added a few inconsequential characters.

Dennis Quaid (playing the main character, Jack Hall) does a passable job with the clichés that Roland Emmerich collectively calls a script. I genuinely liked Jake Gyllenhaal’s character (Jack’s son Sam). Their troubles father-son relationship is some sort of metaphor for doing things before it’s too late. Like with global warming. Get it? I like Gyllenhaal, but that may be leftover approval from Donnie Darko—a weird favorite of mine.

This is a step down for Emmy Rossum after her smallish role as a pivotal character in Mystic River (Katie Markum). Her acting is decent enough it gets me over the reluctance I’ve had to seeing Passionada, a recent film set in New Bedford Mass. in which she has a fairly sizeable role, I’m told.

But back to this movie. The weather effects sure fun to watch. And the extremely hokey, corny plot turns are a hoot. It does get sickening after a while to repeatedly watch the same cliché over and over again in which someone is told “Wake up—you have to see this [data/satellite image/whatever].”

But there is also a pretty consistent theme of people pulling together. None of the characters here are really villains at all. As dystopia descends upon them, we see civilization strengthening, not falling apart at the seams. The script can’t even maintain a decent love triangle rivalry for long. In this way, The Day After Tomorrow is full of humanistic hope and sappygoodfeelings. It’s uplifting, if a good deal saccharine.

Knowing that you’re there for the ride, the only sin of this film is its attempt to seem factual. The silly political stuff at the beginning was unnecessary. If you don’t like Bush, you might get a kick out of the ineffectual president asking the ornery older veep “What do you think should we do??” Cheap shot. Please bring on the tornadoes. And it slows down again for an ending similar to most disaster films.

If you can forgive its faults, The Day After Tomorrow is a mindless eye-candy weather ride. And if you let it get in the way of burning lots of fossil fuels, when that would just be plain un-American.

[Not too surprisingly, “sappygoodfeelings” is not in the MS Word spelling dictionary. Surprisingly, “dystopia” doesn’t appear to be in there either!]

Posted by James at June 3, 2004 10:32 AM
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Does Word flag "dystopia" as wrong? I'm not seeing that here. (It does flag "distopia" as wrong, so it is doing some type of validation.)

Posted by: Julie at June 3, 2004 11:54 AM

Yes. Granted, it wa san older version of Word. Office 2000/2001 or something.

Posted by: James at June 3, 2004 12:33 PM

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