Day After Tomorrow. Twentieth
Century Fox presents a film directed by Roland Emmerich.
Written by Emmerich and Jeffrey Nachmanoff. Running time:
124 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for intense situations of peril).
Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, Ian
Holm, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Austin
Nichols, Tamlyn Tomita, Kenneth Walsh.
After Tomorrow, The
late Pauline Kael once wrote, "The movies are so rarely
great art, that if we can't appreciate great trash, there
is little reason for us to go." Roland Emmerich's latest
disaster epic (he also directed the so-so Independence
Day and the godawful Godzilla remake), The Day
After Tomorrow, isn't great trash, but it is good
trash. The film is nonsense, ridiculous and filled with plot
holes, but the acting is good, it's hardly ever funny when
it doesn't mean to be, and damned if it isn't a whole lot
of fun. It also succeeds where so few disaster films do: we
actually care about the characters.
Quaid is Jack Hall, a climatologist who has made a startling
new discovery: the polar ice-caps are melting at an alarming
rate, cooling down the Gulf Stream Current, causing a massive
climate shift that will soon lead to a new ice age. He predicts
that it will occur within the next 50 or 100 years, but not
anytime soon. That all changes when Jack is contacted by Terry
Rapson (Ian Holm), a British scientist who has discovered
that the Gulf Stream's temperatures are plummeting now.
When Jack goes to Vice President Chen...er, Becker (Kenneth
Walsh) with his warnings, he is ignored.
disaster strikes, and the 30 minute centerpiece of the film
commences. Huge tornadoes devastate downtown Los Angeles,
and tidal waves drown Manhattan. The special effects are tremendous
and seamlessly integrated into the film. Then the climate
change hits and the whole city freezes. Totally ridiculous,
and scientifically laughable, but it succeeds where it should:
in Manhattan is Jack's son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), along with
his prospective girfriend, Laura (the very pretty Emmy Rossum)
and a group of survivors. Sam calls Jack, tells him that he's
holed up in the library. Jack, along with two co-workers,
immediately sets out in the storm to find his son. Why? Because
he's an Overworked Dad who has Ignored His Son for Far Too
of The Day After Tomorrow is just dumb, like the aforementioned
character clichés, Sam's fight with a group of wolves
and Jack's wife's (Sela Ward) sacrifice for a child afflicted
with cancer. But more often than not, the film works. Jack's
journey is often harrowing, and the sideplot with Rapson is
legitimately sad. Still, where the film is an unqualified
success is in Sam's story (except for the wolve's - let's
just ignore that). This section is carried by Gyllenhaal,
and he is more than up for the challenge, giving an performance
that is uncharacteristically assured for a disaster movie.
The relations between the characters in the library is genuine
and believable. Moreso than any other character in the film,
we want these guys (and girls) to make it.
The Day After Tomorrow great - or even good - art?
No, of course not. It's pulp entertainment, designed to appease
the masses and rake in the dough. But unlike all too many
mass market releases, it is legitimately good fun. Go into
the theater knowing what to expect; buy your popcorn - extra
butter, of course - and jumbo soda, sit down in the seat and
surrender yourself to the experience. After all, Pauline Kael
2004 Matt Noller