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PCR # 220  (Vol. 5, No. 24)  This edition is for the week of June 7--13, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Day After Tomorrow"

Movie review by:
Nolan B. Canova

Two stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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20th Century Fox     
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Austin Nichols, and Ian Holm.
Written and Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 4 mins

About the only thing agreed upon by everyone involved before and even after this movie is "Well, the trailer sure looks great!" Like a video box with terrific cover art that houses a disappointing flick or the book with the scary cover that fails to deliver, action-disaster maven Roland Emmerich painted us a better Coming Attraction than he was able to deliver.

Dennis Quaid plays scientist Jack Hall looking for meteorological clues to earth's past weather shifts by boring deep into the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antartica. There he finds evidence of a global superstorm that happened about 10,000 years ago preceding a planet-wide climate change. His mission: to predict if this can happen again and when. While his crew is busying themselves with boring one of those holes, suddenly the Larsen B breaks off the continent and drifts into open water! This, they quickly conclude, is due to global warming.

I should make mention quickly here that this movie is based, at least in part on the book "The Coming Global Superstorm" by two of my heroes of the paranormal, Art Bell (Coast-to-Coast AM radio show) and Whitley Streiber ("Communion"). While it's marketed as a non-fiction cautionary tale, and a fun read, no scientist I'm aware of has used it as a text book in class. Be that as it may...

After a scholarly summit meeting, attended by professor Terry Rapson (Ian Holm), Hall presents his conclusion that the climate change will happen but not for decades or centuries. Unfortunately, he miscalculated the effect of hundreds of thousands of gallons of freshwater melted ice, now pouring out from both poles, on the ocean currents that regulate climate (he will realize this mistake a few scenes from now). An attendee asks what the audience is wondering at this point: If we're talking about global warming, how can this lead to an ice-age? It's explained that the aforementioned contamination of the oceans will have a reverse effect on the climate after the dust settles. Something like that.

Freakish weather starts to happen and fast. An existing hurricane grows beyond the limits of measurement. 5 monster-sized tornadoes raze Los Angeles. Baseball-size hail rains down in Tokyo. And it's raining like hell everywhere else. Hall tries to get the White House interested, but they're too busy with other things to deal with bad weather. (The president and vice-president are played by Al Gore and Dick Cheney lookalikes, wink wink.) By the time they're awakened to the dangers, it's too late. Rapson and Hall agree, the end is near.

The main sub-lot is the separaton of Jack and his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal -- a Tobey Maguire lookalike if ever there was one. My traveling companion, Brandon Jones, told me of a news story where reportedly if the real Maguire were to have failed to show up for Spider-Man duties, Jake would've filled the bill). Sam is in New York which is about to be covered in ice. Jack is near Washington and decides to track out on foot if he has to to find Sam (heroes are like that). Fortunately, Sam got in one last phone call for just a few seconds to inform Jack that he's holed up at the New York Public Library. Jack at least has a target now.

Too bad there are really no other characters to care about. Oh, lots are introduced, but no one you'd risk your life in a snow storm to save, sorry to say.

A far weaker sub-plot, and one which went absolutely nowhere, was of a child cancer patient whose mom decides to stay behind and tend the machines that keep him alive long after everyone else has evacuated. This was a contrived plot device put there obviously to tug on our heart strings. A subsequent intervention by paramedics when all seems lost is just as contrived and inserted-feeling.

The weakest "sub-plot" of all, and the weirdest throwaway, is the occasional cutting to some astronauts aboard the space station who look out the window now and then and comment on how bad the weather looks. They then resume their card game or whatever it is they were doing. Even when contacted by the ground station they seem curiously unaffected.

Like other Emmerich vehicles the special-effects here are first rate, especially the tornadoes, the view-from-space shots of the continent-sized hurricanes, and especially the flooding of New York (yes, it's safe to destroy New York again) followed by its insta-freezing. All too fast, all unnatural, but hey, it's the movies. (Unfortunately, a poorly done CGI of escaped wolves marred an otherwise fool-proof looking NY scene.) I'd almost...almost...say it's worth the price of admission just to see the flooding/freezing scenes. (There's a helicopter crash scene where the crew freezes upon contact with the air that's pretty cool.)

Some have blamed Emmerich's former partner Dean Devlin's not being around to help craft a better story for why it's so weak and meandering. I don't know about that. While The Patriot and Independence Day were much fuller experiences from those two, they also gave us the gawd-awful Godzilla (another let's destroy New York story). Their B-movie Eight-Legged Freaks was probably more developed than The Day After Tomorrow.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "The Day After Tomorrow"  Two stars

This week's movie review of "The Day After Tomorrow" is ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.