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The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Rated PG13

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Emma Rossum

Rating:
**1/2
out of
*****

The man who terrorized New York City in Independence Day and Godzilla is back with a new threat: the weather.

When freak events begin occurring all over the world, weather forecasters are stumped. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is a paleo-climatologist and his research into past weather events becomes the basis of present-day understanding of what is causing tornadoes in Los Angeles and hail the size of basketballs in Japan. Of course, the conservative U.S. government thinks he's crazy and delays evacuating parts of the country most likely to be affected until it's too late.

Jack's son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in New York City for an academic competition. Of course, New York is right in the path of one of three gigantic super-cell storms that will initiate the new Ice Age. Jack decides to travel to New York -- despite his own warnings about the danger of being outside during the storms -- to save his son. (Of course, he feels guilty because he never spent much time with him when he was younger.) Jack's journey to New York is one of several weak subplots that try to provide some human drama to counter the weather's devastation. Most of the characters are so non-descript they don't deserve the attention the script pays them. And a few -- like a boy with cancer who's too frail to travel by anything other than an ambulance -- are included for no apparent reason.

Notice that I said "of course" a lot. This is a film with few actual surprises. Basically, The Day After Tomorrow is an excuse to annihilate several major cities on-screen with some impressive special effects. (Although some ravenous wolves that terrorize a few characters look awfully fake.) There's no denying that seeing the Statue of Liberty being swallowed by a massive wall of water or an unmanned Russian tanker sail down a New York City street are pretty intense visuals -- especially in the post-9/11 world.

The movie tries to make a point -- albeit in a ham-fisted fashion -- about the possibilities of such things happening for real unless there are significant changes in our energy and economic policies but, overall, it's just a mindless summer action flick with a conscience. Don't expect much and you won't be too disappointed.

Trivia: Roland Emmerich said he became interested in doing a movie involving weather while shooting The Patriot. He said his whole day revolved around what the weather forecast was in order to shoot the outdoor scenes and that he really just wanted to control the weather himself. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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