Director: Roland Emmerich
USA - 2004
It should go without saying that The Day After
Tomorrow is a dumb movie.
Consider the source.
Roland Emmerich is notorious for big, effects-laden dumb movies.
He gave us a big dumb lizard in Godzilla, big dumb aliens
in Independence Day, and a big dumb Mel Gibson in The Patriot.
What can I say? The
man likes his cinema big and dumb.
I went into The Day After Tomorrow with that in mind.
I had my popcorn in one hand, Coke in the other, and I had left my
skepticism at the door. I was prepared for a big, dumb summer blockbuster.
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was a big,
dumb, boring movie.
Dennis Quaid plays Jack Hall, a scientist who, after
witnessing a large rupture in a polar ice cap, becomes obsessed with
impending meteorological doom (due to anomalies in the Troposphere as well
as a lack of dilythium crystals in the flux capacitor of the earth’s
Of course, most people do not believe the good
scientist (the evil Vice President Becker, in particular). They ignore Quaid’s warnings, make fun of his mother, and
ridicule his role in the time-traveling thriller Frequency.
The naysayers get their comeuppance, however, when all of Quaid’s
predictions come true.
Tornadoes ravage the earth.
Hail the size of footballs rain down from the heavens.
Monstrous tsunamis crush major metropolises.
Sounds exciting, huh?
Unfortunately, all this occurs in the first forty minutes.
The rest of the movie features the non-stop
excitement of book burning, hot dog eating, and lots and lots of traipsing
about in the snow. I like
snow as much as the next guy, but too much snow gets me to thinking about Snow
Dogs. I loathe Snow
And what is with our fascination with natural
disasters? Where do we derive
this need to see our fellow human beings smote by Mother Nature?
Does it suppress some subconscious guilt we have over the daily
atrocities we commit against our planet?
Personally, I’m leaning towards people being absolutely riveted
by CGI tornadoes and the path of destruction left in their wake.
Besides, earthquakes are much cooler than recycling, right?
Sure, they try to squeeze in a little bit of the
human element here and there: How
a violent storm can reunite an estranged family. The fragile blossoming of young love.
But let’s not forget who we're dealing with. Roland Emmerich wouldn’t know character development if it
drop-kicked him in the face. The
acting is, at best, passable. The
dialogue, for the most part, is stilted (and sometimes hilarious).
And yes, we are, of course, treated to speeches where we’re told
not to tamper in God’s domain, to love one another, and to always return
our videos to Blockbuster rewound. Sure,
it’s not as bad as Bill Pullman’s speech in Independence Day,
but neither is a fork jammed into your left eye.
One thing the filmmakers did get right was casting
Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) as Quaid’s son (I guess Will Smith
was busy filming Wilder, Wilder West).
He isn’t given much to work with (varying between “Look out!
A tidal wave!” and “Look out!
A tornado!”), but his integrity is still intact when the end
credits begin to roll. Dennis
Quaid is OK, and Gyllenhaal’s love interest (Emmy Rossum) doesn’t
embarrass herself, but the rest of the cast just fades into the
I’m not saying I expect fine cinema when watching
the likes of The Day After Tomorrow.
What I do expect, however, is two hours of brainless eye candy.
Stupid and unbelievable are par for the course, but dull is
-- Copyright © 2004 by J. Bannerman