THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Two kinds of people tend to love movies like “The Day After Tomorrow.”  The worriers personalize the possibilities. What would I do?  Could it happen here?  They leave the theater sunk in claustrophobia and foreboding.  The fun lovers see no connection whatsoever between reality and the special effects.  They leave the theater with smiles of appreciation for the imaginative gift Hollywood has bestowed on them.   

A third group has emerged lately, and for them, it’s not necessarily great entertainment any more to see the Statue of Liberty run over by a wall of water, or to see Manhattan’s buildings crumble under sheets of ice.  Movies about sinking ships, floods, tornadoes, fire and ice have become blockbusters with an edge. 

Here we have a hero, Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), who has a heroic son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), and a sympathetic estranged wife, Lucy (Sela Ward).  Lucy is a compassionate doctor who we assume must have left Jack because he was always on field trips studying global warming.  On this most recent one, he and his team were standing on the polar ice cap when it split in the warming water.  This being a two-hour movie, the calamity will take place in days, not weeks or years.  How will Jack get his message through to an ignorant, uncaring administration?

            Jack, the scientist, squares off against the vice president of the U.S. who is played by Kenneth Welsh in a comically perfect take off on Dick Cheney.   He not only looks like him, he wears the same national blinders as the real guy, holding to his position even when the angry weather brings snow to New Delhi, ice chunks to Tokyo, and tornadoes to Los Angeles. 

            Just as young children think of Leonardo Di Caprio when they see pictures of the Titanic, they will now ask to see lower Manhattan “where the wave hit.”   There’s a nice bit of irony that strikes when evacuating Americans cross the Rio Grande illegally into Mexico – access granted only after the president forgives all Latin American debt.  Enjoy one great sight:  the bow of a Russian ship floating into view past the window of the New York Public Library. 

            Dennis Quaid, with furrowed brow, snowshoes from Philadelphia to New York to save his son.  Jake Gyllenhaal burns the treasures of the N.Y. Public Library to keep survivors alive and warm.  Sela Ward is gorgeous and principled as she takes care of a young cancer victim.  The movie is built around the sermon of global warming, and when in the end the vice president regrets that he has lived by “the myth that we could go on consuming our natural resources,” we heave a sigh of relief that our leader has transcended himself.  Now if the real Mr. Cheney, who would love the action heroics of this movie, would watch it carefully, he might just get the part about the polar ice cap.


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