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Cinemalphabet: D is for The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

April 4, 2011

This cheesy mash up of 70s disaster flicks and Independence Day had me at, “Supercooled air from the upper troposphere.” and Perry King as POTUS. Was Bill Pullman unavailable? Like with nearly all of Roland Emmerich disaster flicks, The Day After Tomorrow provides audiences ample opportunities to see beloved character actors navigate perilous circumstances on various sound stages simultaneously. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: Emmerich disaster flicks are a highly efficient means of consuming a lot of pop culture goodness (cheesiness, disaster tropes, character actors, bad acting, fatuous plots, shaky exposition) at one time.

As usual, English speakers are the first to notice things are amiss and quickly inform other English speakers about the coming doom and gloom. There is much grand standing, denial of irrefutable proof, marriages struggling to survive, and children in peril. There are unresolved family tensions, Sela Ward on a gravitas duty and a black nerd sidekick. There is Jake Gyllenhaal in one of his last youthful and kind of fun roles, despite the direness of his plight. Once Gyllenhaal started styling his hair off his face, I realized his quirky Donnie Darko days were drawing to a close.

To continue to catalog the flaws, foolishness or failures of this genre flick is diminish its addictive appeal. It’s fun to watch, despite conflating melodrama for pathos. The plot moves along jauntily as city after city is blanketed by terrible weather patterns. It is not at all concerned with the individuals at the center of the story; Emmerich’s films never are. If anything, it explains some of the insensitivity displayed by those not directly affected by the events in Japan, who perhaps don’t realize none of it was CGI and the lives destroyed are real and no C list white male lead is coming up with a plan to “save” the world. For those of you who like your disaster sci-fi bleeding heart and preachy as hell, you’re in for a real treat! The Day After Tomorrow is all about making you feel badly about every second you don’t think about the weather or how your own behavior impacts it. For those of you who don’t cotton to preachy sci-fi disaster flicks, you’re in for 2 hours of shaming in the form of some spectacular scenes of CGI destruction. As with most Emmerich films all the good stuff’s in the trailer, so if you want to be surprised, then don’t watch it.

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