FALstaff At The Movies

The Day After Tomorrow

posted June 4, 2004

Nine twenty-five to get in, huh?
This film pretty much kicks off with a bang - the crumbling ice shelf FX were great. Huge hailstones ("nature's dodgeball") were menacing enough, as were the other weather-gone-haywire bits. "The day the earth fought back."
There's no lack of product placement in this picture. Destroying L.A. landmarks could almost be taken as the reverse phenomenon - if the reverse irony wasn't so thick. Apparently the last TV stations functioning will all be Fox affiliates. We guess it could be... worse.
We were very impressed with the quick-freeze effects ("In the meadow, we can build a human"), and the flooding of New York was mesmerizing. (All the more, for one of your humble reviewers, because he hadn't seen A.I. yet.) Tornado CG has really been advanced by "X2", and it's very successful here too. The animatronic wolves didn't fool us for a second, though.
Speaking of unfortunate visuals, we regret the casting of Dennis Quaid here. We like his comedic work - but c'mon, Dennis Quaid as a paleoclimatologist? "Somehow he sucks all the credibility out of his scenes," the Asian FALstaffer remarked, "unless he's in the scene with an Asian..." (We've since noted that he's in "The Flight of the Phoenix" - but not carrying it - which is in post-production and has a solid writer supplying what we can hope will be an actor-proof script.)
Jake Gyllenhaal outshines Quaid, even if he's playing a 17-year-old and looks older (we thought 28, but apparently he's 24). It's hard to watch him, though, without sitting there and thinking "he's supposed to be in high school? Suuuure..."
We were split on the "effectiveness" of the homeless guy thrown in as comic relief. Jay O. Sanders was great, as he so often is, even as the sacrificial lamb done in way too early for a cheap heart-tug. It's good to see Sir Ian Holm again (whoops, but that only proves that one FALstaffer hasn't seen the Ring trilogy yet...), as riveting as he always is (Brazil, Alien, and so on). Mimi Kuzyk (quite a bit of TV work) has a nice turn too. You'll notice we're not going to flog the same old horse about the actor playing the Vice President resembling Cheney. It's true, and the producers are trying to be sly in their political statements, but that's not why you'd go and see a fine end-of-the-world flick anyway, is it?
No kudos for Roland Emmerich! His dialogue is hackneyed, the symbolism could hardly be more ham-handed... He also directed this movie - adequately - as well as ID4, Universal Soldier, The Patriot, Stargate, the 1998 version of Godzilla. He also wrote ID4 and Stargate, so "The Day After Tomorrow" can safely be said to be "not his finest hour". It is to be hoped somebody else mucked up this script and escaped the blame because of the attribution rules. This dialogue did not help any of the actors, we'll tell you that.
Special props to Jean-François Campeau (art director, splinter unit) and all the under-the-line people who, uh, did the best they could. With all of the film work fleeing north of the border, truly "Canada is the poor man's America."
With a story based on Art Bell and Whitley Streiber's writing, it would have been brave to deal with the potential need for compassionate euthanasia (if you haven't read "Warday", put it on your list)... but we Americans are so flighty.
One more odd note - while driving home after seeing this saga on the night it premiered, George Noory was heard on the radio, talking up the scene where the President and his motorcade are flash-frozen... but "strangely enough" that scene was excised from the print that we viewed. Understandable (barely), but disappointing.

"The Day After Tomorrow" is rated 6.2 out of 10 at this writing (6,550 votes) on imdb.com.
We say: a fine DVD rental, unless you're really needing that big screen to see the awesome CG effects.

- Chris Grrr / Tom Working

All too soon.