The Day After Tomorrow (2/10)
2004 by Tony Medley
I felt like I was in
a movie within a movie. I was in the audience in Singin’ in the
Rain (1952) watching a preview of Dueling Cavaliers the
“new” 1927 talkie starring Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and his regular
leading lady, the inept Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). The lines were awful,
Lina couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag; it was a disaster and
the audience howled at lines that were meant to be serious.
happened at the all media screening of The Day After Tomorrow.
Substitute Dennis Quaid for Lina Lamont and you were back on the MGM lot
sitting in that audience. Some of Quaid’s lines out-camp the worst of
the ‘50s B movies. Dennis is coming off a dismal performance for the
ages in the deplorable The Alamo earlier this year. Now he’s
topped himself. Dennis’ poor performances can no longer be blamed
solely on bad scripts, although this one, by Roland Emmerich (with
Jeffrey Nachmanoff), who also directed, produced, and created the story,
is as bad as they come, and bad directors. Emmerich might as well have
starred in it, too, because he couldn’t have been worse than Dennis.
Poor, poor Dennis. At least the fictional Don Lockwood had the integrity
to hide from the audience after the preview. He knew the film stunk and
he stunk. But here’s Dennis on The Today Show promoting this thing and
his career, gloating, “I’m in a really good place in my career
now.” He doesn’t realize how bad are his recent roles and how banal
his performances, and that he’s in danger of becoming a caricature?
Or, worse for an actor, the owner of an unringing phone?
Maybe that explains something. Can you spell J-U-D-G-M-E-N-T?
Emmerich will win
his political credentials, though. Even if it had been a good movie, it
would have been destroyed by its POV. The bad guy in the movie is the
Vice President of the United States, a dead ringer for Dick Cheney. The
President is a youngish dolt who always asks the Veep, “What would you
do?” And there’s a plug for the Kyoto Treaty. And all the blame for
global warming is based on human action, even though there’s a lot of
science to the effect that if there is global warming at work (a
debatable premise) it’s due to natural causes that have been in play
for billions of years. But as you will learn as you read on, Emmerich
doesn’t display any penchant for intelligence or informed knowledge or
even-handedness in this film.
How dumb is this?
Listen. The earth is hit with unprecedented storms that bring about an
ice age in 10 days. Prof. Jack Hall (Quaid) predicts the storm but the
Black Hat veep ignores him. Jack is in Washington D.C. when the storm
gets much worse. Air traffic has been cancelled. Three helicopters
crashed in England because their fuel lines froze. Jack’s son, Sam
(Jake Hyllenhaal), is trapped in New York. Jack says he’s going to
walk from Washington to New York to get to Sam. Someone says,
incredulously, something like, “Walk?” Jack says, seriously,
“I’ve walked that far before.” The audience guffawed. The
questions I asked myself were, “Why does he want to go to New York?
What can he do if he gets there and finds Sam?” Nobody brought that
up, so he sets off on his quixotic jaunt with his two buddies. The Three
Stooges off in the storm. The only reason I can think for this journey
is that he’s walking to The Big Apple because he can’t get through
on the telephone.
Later one of the
characters comments on a part of the storm that’s hitting New York.
Says she, “…temperature is falling 10 degrees a second!” Ten
degrees a SECOND? By the mathematics I learned in the first grade, that
means in one minute the temperature drops 600 degrees! Yet Sam is out on
a boat trying to get medical supplies for his girl friend and he’s got
time to crawl out the window, balance on a little pipe 50 feet in the
air (remember it’s snowing and cold and slippery), trying to get away
from a pack of wolves (don’t ask). The drop in temperature doesn’t
seem to affect him. Apparently the writers of this script didn’t get
past first grade mathematics. And, after you sit through this, you can
believe that they don’t have the knowledge or sense that a normal
first grader should have acquired by achieving that level of education.
Then, Sam and his
buddy are trying to outrun the cold, which is just behind them, freezing
buildings (so cold the Empire State Building freezes and falls down).
Where are they running to, you might ask? They’re trying to get in a
room with a fire and close the door!
Close the door! Did you get that? The cold is so bad it FROZE THE
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING! And they are running in order to get inside this
room to close a door so they’ll be safe! The door to hell couldn’t
make them safe from anything this cold.
The Special Effects
are good, and they’re the only reason I don’t give this the lowest
rating I can. If the story were a little more intelligent, it would at
least be ludicrous. But this screenplay doesn’t achieve that level.
Enough to say the people who wrote this think they’ve given us a happy
ending even though 100 million Americans apparently perish. If that
doesn’t give you a taste of the intelligence behind this, nothing
The unfortunate part
of all this isn’t just that these people spent a lot of money to make
a terrible movie. No, the sad part is that there are lots of problems
with our worldwide society causing immeasurable damage to the
environment, including the fact that global warming might be caused, or
exacerbated, by human action. These filmmakers had all this money and a
chance not only to make an entertaining film but also at the same time to
educate people about something important. Instead they didn’t know
what they were talking about, took cheap political shots, and wasted an
occasion to do a lot of good. While it might be true that the primary
obligation of a filmmaker is to make money, close behind is to
contribute to a better society by educating people about issues.
Emmerich and Fox and Lions Gate might make money out of this, but they
should be ashamed of themselves by squandering so much money on such a
putrid piece of work and frittering away a golden opportunity to
accomplish something more far reaching than telling a story.
May 25, 2004