Reviews > Culture

Disaster of a movie

Culture

Issue: "Iraq: Present and past," June 12, 2004

MoveOn.org claims that The Day After Tomorrow is "the movie the White House doesn't want you to see." If that's true, perhaps it's simply a matter of good taste among members of the administration. The only thing more ridiculous than The Day After Tomorrow itself is the fact that the shameless team at MoveOn.org and Al Gore decided to hitch their wagon to the movie, using it as a vehicle to talk about "real" issues of global warming.

Is The Day After Tomorrow (rated PG-13 for intense situations of peril) an issue movie disguised as a summer blockbuster? Or is it a summer blockbuster disguised as an issue movie? Either way, it doesn't work.

Like most disaster movies since The Poseidon Adventure, The Day After Tomorrow follows the stories of a handful of diverse characters during the week-long period it takes to plunge the globe into a new ice age. Some very dubious explanation is put forth by climatologist Dennis Quaid, having to do, of course, with global warming, temperature shifts, and ocean current changes. What this means in movie terms is that tornadoes destroy Los Angeles, a tidal wave wipes out New York, and, for good measure, some very hungry wolves chase several main characters through an abandoned oil tanker sitting on a street in Manhattan.

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There's not a single line of authentic dialogue in the movie (really-readers who disagree should send candidates to us). As a result, none of the fine actors participating in this embarrassment comes through unscathed, including Mr. Quaid, Sela Ward, Ian Holm, and Jake Gyllenhaal-all four are capable performers but are understandably unable to rise above the material here.

Director Roland Emmerich's previous films, including The Patriot and Independence Day, have been accused of being jingoistic in their patriotism. Perhaps he felt the need to make up for that here, creating a thinly veiled portrait of a weak, clueless country-boy president who plays second fiddle to the arrogant, spiteful vice president, who is eventually humbled when forced to find sanctuary in a refugee camp in Mexico after the northern United States freezes over.

If there are any pleasures to be found in The Day After Tomorrow, they are in some fantastic special effects, and the potential for the film to become an interactive experience for theater-goers. The screening attended for this review could have been a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for all of the audience participation it encouraged. Although most of what was shouted at the screen was less than complimentary (and a little crude), there's nothing like a shared community experience. Unfortunately for MoveOn.org, this is probably not the national dialogue they were shooting for.

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