The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

reviewed by
Robin Clifford

"The Day After Tomorrow"

Climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) declares at a

world conference that mankind's wasteful ways will

plunge the earth into a new Ice Age. His warnings are

ignored at the highest government levels until drastic

events like enormous hurricanes, fast dropping

temperatures and hail the size of boulders begin

happening around the world. As Jack predicted, the end

is near but nobody guessed that it would be "The Day

After Tomorrow."

Roland Emmerich, as we all know, has a penchant for

the big special F/X extravaganza. "Independence Day,"

"Godzilla" and "The Patriot" are all bombastic,

large-scale adventure flicks that deal with

larger-than-life issues like alien invasion, a big

green monster and nasty British soldiers. Now,

Emmerich takes on man's stupidity and egotism and

turns Mother Nature against us in a huge way.

"The Day After Tomorrow starts off in suitable fashion

as the camera descends across a vast ice field in

Antarctica to a tiny American science station

literally in the middle of nowhere. Jack, with his

partners Jason (Dash Mihok) and Frank (Jay O. Sanders)

are burrowing for ice core samples that may give us

information about the Ice Age that gripped the earth

10,000 years ago. As Jason drills into the ice an

enormous crack appears and a chunk of the field, the

size of Rhode Island, breaks off, almost killing the

scientists. Jack takes his findings and fears to a

conference on global warming in New Delhi, India where

the head of the conference, American Vice-President

Becker (Kenneth Walsh), disregards the scientist, with

his unbelievable facts and figures, as a doom and

gloom crackpot.

But, Jack may be on to something when reports come in

from around the world of bizarre weather-related

events. Snow falls for the first time in memory in New

Delhi; a monster hurricane the size of which has never

been seen forms near Australia; giant cyclones

devastate Los Angeles; massive bird migrations flee

south; huge temperature drops are recorded in the

North Atlantic; and, New York City is being inundated

by the sea. 

As is the norm for Emmerich's epics, there is a human

story mixed in with this tale of global devastation.

Jack is estranged from his wife, Lucy (Sela Ward), and

their son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), due to his

workaholic ways. Sam is heading to Manhattan for a

scholastic competition and Jack, due to his

meteorological concerns, almost forgets to pick up his

son to take him to the airport. There is a rift

between the two that you know will be resolved in a

big way by the end of the movie. When Jack's dire

predictions come true, Sam is marooned in New York

with floods, tidal waves and plummeting temperatures

that brings the city to its knees. Jack, schooled in

dealing with harsh elements, vows to Sam that he will

come and rescue him.

This portion of "The Day After Tomorrow" smacks of

being derived from "Finding Nemo." Sam, standing in

for Nemo, gets himself into a pickle as he and a small

band of survivors barricade themselves from the

elements in the New York Public Library. (There is a

bit of political correctness as the survivors debate

the moral dilemma of burning books to keep warm. That

the real estate law books go first is one of the

little jokes interspersed through the drama.) As the

shivering troop struggles to stay alive, Jack and his

partners, Jason and Frank, load up their truck with

frigid weather gear and head off on their rescue

mission. They must traverse hundreds of miles in the

foulest weather, facing obstacles and death along the

way. Jack and Marlin (the dad in "Nemo" voiced by

Albert Brooks) have a lot in common.

The human-interest portion of "The Day After

Tomorrow," as you'd expect, takes a back seat to the

near seamless computer-generated effects. Massive

tornadoes ripping LA apart and tidal waves inundating

New York are just some of the realistic looking F/X

utilized to show what could be the end of the world.

Marry these with solid production design, by Barry

Chusid, and the result is a good-looking and

believable to watch adventure yarn.

The cast, of course, must play second banana to the

F/X monster, but, led by Dennis Quaid, they do a

yeoman's job of putting a human face on the proceeds.

Little plot devises used to make a heartfelt "story"

abound through "The Day After Tomorrow." A homeless

man and his loyal dog lend the their survival

instincts to the group huddling in the NY Library. Sam

and his friends must risk life and limb, with timber

wolves chasing them, to board an abandoned Russian

freighter (floating on the street of Manhattan, no

less) to find penicillin to save Sam's love interest,

Laura (Emmy Rossum). Laura is responsible for this

dangerous trek when she gashed her leg days before,

got infected and didn't tell anyone until they are

obliged to save her. Jack's ex, Lucy, a doctor in

Washington, DC, has a young cancer patient she must

care for against the odds. The president must decide

on whom to save and whom to let die. All the while, an

enormous assembly of storms plunges the northern

hemisphere into a frigid wilderness. There is the

usual happy ending.

I have never been a fan of Roland Emmerich films but

"The Day After Tomorrow" reps the best he has done to

date. It could have been shorter and less time spent

on some of the "human" elements, but it is a

well-crafted film that uses its F/X budget to good

advantage. Tent pole films like this may have big,

even wasteful budgets, but the money is up on the

screen here. Oh, yeah, the dog lives in this one. I

give it a B.

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