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Arts & Culture/ Reel Dealz
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The Day After Tomorrow
by:Edwardo Jackson

MOVIE BIASES: Good title, good subject, good trailer. Bring it!
MAJOR PLAYERS: Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Jake Gyllenhaal (The Good Girl), co-writer/director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day)

As I used to temp for some a bunch of tree-hugging granola head lawyers at an environmental law firm, I've heard about this movie for quite some time. Even though this movie seems to aid their cause, the Fox publicity machine has (wisely?) downplayed the political and environmental themes of its summer blockbuster of a disaster flick. The result? You should go see it – the day after tomorrow.

Jack Hall (Quaid) is a highly regarded yet highly ignored paleoclimatologist whose model for global warming destroying the world as we know it draws some interest when, well, it starts happening. Amid rising swells, freak snowstorms, and temperature dropping oceans around the world, Jack's emotionally estranged yet casually brilliant son Sam (Gyllenhaal) heads off to New York City for an academic decathlon mostly because of a girl. And then the chaos begins: lethal hailstorms in Tokyo, hurricanes tearing up LA, and tidal waves so fierce they turn the Big Apple into Venice West. With the government finally listening but in little position to avert the wrath of Mother Nature, Jack decides to trek from DC to New York in sub-freezing temperatures to get to his son, who's guiding a group of people trapped in the New York Public Library to survival.

Okay, okay, I hear you – this is patently unbelievable. Well, sort of. The science part of it maybe part Hollywood hokum, but I do know for a fact that the crux of it is real. You don't have to be a card carrying member of the Green Party to have known from the fifth grade that our human consumptive nature is turning the Earth into an ashtray at the tobacco lobby. So once those fifth grade sensibilities kick in to suspend your disbelief, you start thinking, "Damn. Where WILL I be 'The Day After Tomorrow???'"

No one will ever accuse Roland Emmerich of being subtle. The dialogue in the film, while not overly preachy, isn't Shakespeare either. It's dry, straightforward, and shockingly clunky at times. It's almost as if the dialogue is there to educate us on the evils of global warming and then usher us from one exploding special effects set piece to the next. Character development takes a back seat to disaster management – and I'm almost okay with that.

Pity the poor actors, who don't have much to do but react and look scared, despite having the always engagingly intense Nestor Serrano and the perpetually elegant Sela Ward. The former doesn't have much to do but bark at Quaid while the latter's role is easily the most thankless in the movie, babysitting a sick, bedridden kid while the world falls apart around them. Yawn. Even Quaid and Gyllenhaal's performances are somewhat by the numbers. Quaid's performance is as down the middle as a Bush-Kerry election poll and Gyllenhaal does an even softer, quieter version of his normal screen persona, if possible. Jake Gyllenhaal, REEL DEAL Crush Maggie's brother, specializes in playing bright, moody, disaffected loners, with the only spin in this role being his shy lovesickness for Emmy Rossum's (Mystic River) Laura. Gyllenhaal's understated, wryly charming performances are always curious to watch, for you know there's a fierce intelligence behind those moondog eyes of which he only barely scratches the surface.

But the unseen character, the sixth man in basketball, if you will, is Mother Nature, or the special effects team behind her. This movie is eminently watchable solely because of the realistic nature of the visual effects. Usually technology's abused in movies to drown a movie's story (see "Van Helsing"). In "Tomorrow's" case, it only amplifies it. Armed with your suspended disbelief and "what if" scenario in your head, it's easy to be excited and intimidated by seeing tornadoes literally erase Hollywood off the map, basketball-sized hail kill people walking the street, or watch people freeze to death in superstorms that drop ten degrees in temperature per second. Never discount Hollywood's wow factor, as I sat there watching cars being tossed around LA's I-405 by a twister, saying to myself, "Shoot. There goes the crib." The drum-banging, ominously foreboding musical score didn't help my anxiety either.

Once the storms set in, this becomes a dark movie without much humor. Whatever humor's there is wrought from irony: burning formidable tax law books to stay warm, reverse illegal immigration to Mexico, and a Dick Cheney look-a-like Vice President who becomes the biggest ass on the planet for his fossil fueled arrogance. With no escape in sight for mankind (can't duck Mother Earth), a real climax/solution seems impossible, a la 1998's asteroid-coming-to-clobber-Earth movie "Deep Impact" instead of the other 1998 asteroid flick "Armageddon" where they drilled and blew the sucker up. This movie makes it painfully aware, mostly through action than talking, that if we don't clean out our ashtray, we may never see "The Day After Tomorrow." Sad that it takes a movie destined to be a global blockbuster to get that point across more effectively than any tree-hugging granola head lawyer ever could.

It's pretty hot – go give it a shot.

Like what you read? Agree/disagree with The Reel Deal? Think he's talkin' out his...HUSH YO' MOUF! (I'm only talkin' about The Reel Deal!) Email him at ReelReviewz@aol.com!

Edwardo Jackson is the author of the novels EVER AFTER and NEVA HAFTA, (Villard/Random House), a writer for UrbanFilmPremiere.com, and an LA-based screenwriter. Visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com

© 2004, Edwardo Jackson

© Copyright 2004

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