No, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse don't ride in, but just about everything else that could go wrong does. Airplanes plummet out of the skies; doors swing open in prisons; rationing of groceries goes into effect; banks refuse to let people close out their accounts.
The teleplay by Thomas Hines and Jonathan Fernandez lays out these calamities in the same shrill, overheated style once reserved for movies about "The Red Menace" and "Marijuana, The Weed with Roots in Hell." Like those cautionary tales, "Y2K" gets so swept up in trying to startle its audience that it finally exhausts your patience. It's ultimately little more than two hours of cardboard characters running a lengthy gauntlet.
A disclaimer at the beginning insists the film is "purely fictional" and "does not suggest or imply that any of these events could actually occur." So why bother making "Y2K" at all? Certainly there are no stories here that desperately needed to be told.
In typical disaster-movie fashion, Hines and Fernandez skip between multiple plot lines: a New York couple whose night of romance in Times Square is squelched by a power outage; an overzealous TV newswoman -- named Gaby, fitting enough -- who'd rather broadcast rumors instead of waiting for verified details about the various crises erupting; a sullen, disagreeable teen -- is there any other kind in bad made-for-TV movies? -- who gripes about having to spend New Year's Eve with her family instead of at a major-league rave; and, as our central figure, former MIT whiz kid Nick Cromwell (Ken Olin, late of "thirtysomething"), a self-professed "complex systems failure guy" who doubles as an all-purpose savior.
As midnight falls across the country's four time zones, Nick has no time for guzzling champagne. He's zooming from one tragedy to another, quelling chaos at the airport by guiding a jet to a safe landing on a blacked-out runaway, then rushing to a nuclear power plant to prevent a meltdown. "Who would you want taking care of this: Nick or some Homer Simpson?" Nick's co-worker asks one of the Doubting Thomases who questions Cromwell's qualifications.
The heroism must be genetic: Nick's dad (Ronny Cox), we learn, was part of the Apollo 13 rescue team.
Olin, prefacing his every line with an anguished sigh, looks sorely in need of rescue himself. But then any actor would have trouble delivering the dialogue in "Y2K." Most of these lines could have been heated up and poured over nacho chips.
Some of the movie's many sins might have been pardonable if "Y2K" had managed to include at least a few spectacular images or suspenseful situations. Instead, the special effects on view here are some of the chintziest since the last Gamera the Flying Turtle epic, and Dick Lowry's dull direction manages to make the nuclear plant sequences seem like "The China Syndrome" on Sominex.