The Day After Tomorrow

Disaster-movie junkies may snap-freeze their brains at The Day After Tomorrow just to see what a $125 million budget and an army of computers can do to show the horrors of global arming: The Big Apple is invaded by a tidal wave that nearly drowns Lady Liberty. The ollywood sign goes down in a tornado. Hailstorms pound Tokyo. Hurricanes whack Hawaii. Way ool? Not to these eyes. xcept for a Russian freighter floating down Fifth Avenue (neat shot) it all looks ynthetic, like something untouched by a human hand or heart. The only truly scary thing about this doomsday popcorn flick is the momumental ineptitude of the acting, writing and directing. Yet the movie has become a lightning rod for political debate. The right dismisses it as fright propaganda that posits the onset of a new ice age in a few days, when in reality that would take decades. The left embraces it as a chance to raise consciousness about greenhouse gases and bash George Bush for not taking action. id they see the same blockheaded cheeseball movie that I saw? The one in which climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) leaves snowed-in D.C. (where he scolds the foot-dragging vice president, a real Cheney-esque dick in the performance of Ken Welsh) to embark on a mission: Jack must rescue his seventeen-year-old son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is holed up with his buds in the New York Public Library burning books for warmth. You got it, folks. Director Roland Emmerich and his co-screenwriter Jeffrey Nachmanoff have lifted the plot of Finding Nemo, only this time it's far more cartoonish. Jack leaves behind his doctor wife, Lucy (Sela Ward), who suffers nobly in the hope that global warming can save their troubled marriage before it ends them. As for Sam, who the usually capable Gyllenhaal plays like a guppy wimp, he flirts timidly with Laura (Emmy Rossum, so confident in Mystic River, so flailing here) but makes it clear that his true love is for Jack, the orkaholic dad who never had time for him. P>ill me now. The avalanche of cliches just won't quit. There's a homeless black man in the library with a cute dog who barks whenever calamity approaches. Sadly, the mutt doesn't bowwow when new chunk of dog dialogue is about to be spoken. Quaid gets the lion's share of clinkers. "Unpack the snowshoes, we're walking from here," says Jack when his car conks out in Philly and he and his team begin the trudge to Manhattan. P>he film's career-threatening performances must be blamed on Emmerich, who brings out the worst in actors (see Godzilla) making them gaze into the camera for close-ups meant to resonate with feeling when it's clear they are ing open-mouthed into a blank screen which special effects will be projected later. You can't blame Emmerich for recycling ny of the effects that worked in his biggest hit, Independence Day, but his sregard for even the flimsiest logic turns the film into an unintentional campfest. First see the steel girders of Manhattan freeze over and snap. Then we cut to Sam and Laura aring a smooch in the library, where one fireplace and their love are apparently sizzling ough to ward off the latest ice age. Don't ask whether or not you should take The Day After Tomorrow seriously. Don't take it at all.