Disaster flick relies on special effects

Ben Kessler: Ben to the movies

A little anecdote: I walked into the theater to purchase my ticket and asked the lady behind the counter, “Can I have a ticket for ‘The Day After Tomorrow?’” To which she replied with a wry smile, “Sorry, we don’t sell advance tickets.”
I thought I’d share that with you all. I thought it was funny anyway.
In “The Day After Tomorrow,” Dennis Quaid plays Jack Hall, a climatologist who tries to warn the U.S. administration of the effect global warming could have on the Northern Hemisphere of the world in about 100 years. Unfortunately, his studies have left little time for his family.
In England, scientist Terry Rapson (Ian Holm, Bilbo from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy), who has been following Hall’s work, contacts him and presents evidence that says the Northern Hemisphere may not have 100 years. It may have a week.
As Earth-shattering storms begin to ravage the planet, Hall informs the administration of the seriousness of America’s position, then sets out to walk from Washington, D.C., to New York across a rapidly freezing tundra to rescue his son, Sam (“October Sky’s” Jake Gyllenhaal), from a storm that instantly freezes everything it touches.
“Day After Tommorrow” is a disaster movie. I don’t just mean in the sense that its genre is disaster movie, I mean it follows the lead of almost every disaster movie ever made.
We have the main character, and then different parts of the world are shown, each with their representative (lesser) main character. Throw in some disasters that kill some supporting characters (who you’ve had no time to get fond of anyway), and then the big bad disaster hits its cliché climax, the one that every moviegoer can see coming from as far as the popcorn stand.
The anti-global warming message is heavy-handed, and some of the characters shamelessly beg the audience to feel for their predicament, which is hard to do since it’s obvious who is going to live and who is going to die, even to those who aren’t really paying attention (you know who you are).
The movie never established itself as more than a blah story with some good weather special effects. Some of the special effects were lacking, however, such as the wolves which looked more like they should have been trying to chow down on Nemo than real actors. Not that I’m a stickler for realism. I know that a lot of the meteorological events in this movie require willing suspension of disbelief, but I’d rather have to believe in an ice age that takes a week to occur than believe that cartoons and people can co-exist anywhere other than “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
Some of the acting was notable. Ian Holm brought great skill to the movie, but wasn’t on screen enough to be a real presence; Dennis Quaid played Dennis Quaid, which was disappointing after “Alamo”; and Sela Ward, playing his wife, was actually painful for me to watch. Every time the camera panned in on her face during an “emotional” moment, I kept expecting a voice-over to say, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
All in all, not a great movie, but if it’s on the telly and you happen across it for some reason, it’s not the worst way to spend two hours of your life (that dubious honor goes to “Cabin Fever” — don’t check it out). If you really like disaster movies, this should quench your thirst for global destruction. I give it a two.

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Now showing
Show: The Day After Tomorrow
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Sela Ward and Emmy Rossum.
Summary: A workaholic climatologist must rescue his estranged son from a quickly-freezing New York as global warming brings a new ice age to the Northern Hemisphere.
Show times: Daily at 12:45, 3:45, 6:30 and 10 p.m.
Length: 2:22
Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense situations of peril (as opposed to what, placid situations of peril?).