Awfully Good: The Day After Tomorrow

In between aliens and terrorists taking the WHITE HOUSE DOWN, Roland Emmerich made a scientific documentary you may have heard of…

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Killer Ice

Global Warming is coming to kill you!

There’s a fine line between stupid-fun and stupid-dumb and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW crosses that barrier barely 30 seconds after the opening credits end. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment, but probably around the time paleo-climatologist and super dad Dennis Quaid jumps ONTO a collapsing ice shelf in order to save some ground samples that would take him less than 20 minutes to recollect. It doesn’t make any sense if you give it even a modicum of thought, but, hey, seeing Harrison Ford-Lite dangle from a glacial precipice makes for a cool visual!

That last sentence will be a recurring theme throughout the rest of this movie.

Even his best friends hated it when Iceman farted.

It may not be as deliberately ridiculous as Emmerich’s 2012, but in some ways THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW is even dumber. There’s taking a few cinematic liberties for the sake of excitement, and then there’s making the most scientifically retarded film since THE CORE. I don’t want to get in to the politics of global warming, but I think even Al Gore would scoff at the idea that cataclysmic climate change could occur within a couple weeks, or that a visible ice age would chase you across the city. (An actual climatologist from Duke University puts it best: “This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery.”) The script relishes in throwing scientific phrases like “critical desalinization” at you in an attempt cover up gaping plot holes, like pretending centuries-worth of environmental disruption could happen overnight. (Thanks, Giant Superstorms!) And at worst, it’s annoyingly preachy, with characters actually looking directly at the camera to chide the audience about consuming natural resources and learning from their mistakes. I appreciate the offer, but I don’t think I’ll take life advice from the guy who made GODZILLA and 10,000 B.C.

“Hey, I’m totally not Dick Cheney, you guys!”

The movie follows a variety of characters around the world, but the main focus is on the Prius-driving Quaid (and his small team of scientists who are all smarter than everyone else in the world) and his underachieving high school son played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal is on a nerdy school trip to New York City along with Token Black Friend and love interest Emmy Rossum, who insists on doing stupid things like running in to a tidal wave to find a stranger’s passport. However, my favorite people in the movie are the most blatant, liberal pandering characters—the evil Vice President who looks exactly like Dick Cheney… and the well-meaning President who looks just like Al Gore and is constantly being misled by his second-in-command.

“I’m not Al Gore either. I’m super serial.”

The special effects are pretty good for 2004. That’s about all that’s worthwhile in this movie, which is a plus since the majority of the film is CGI set pieces that include:

Tornados in LA. Watch as multiple twisters destroy major Los Angeles landmarks, from the Hollywood sign to the Capitol Records building. Emmerich must not think too highly of Californians, since they’re by far the dumbest people on Earth. (Just a few of many random characters that are introduced just so we can see them die.) There are the people standing in the street videotaping the gale force winds, the pilots who fly helicopters directly in their path, and the reporter who stands 20 feet from a tornado saying, “That’s a tornado behind me!”

Giant tidal waves in NYC. The oceans rise 25 feet in seconds, creating a conveniently slow moving tsunami that completely covers the Statue of Liberty (yet somehow doesn’t knock it over) and demolishes most of Manhattan, except for the public library our heroes are hiding in.

Thank God his parents paid for him to go to college.

The cold. Gyllenhaal and friends wait out the snowstorm in the library, burning books instead of all the wooden furniture around them. Since his dad is a paleo-climatologist, he tries to stop people from leaving and making a run for it, which later leads to a completely gratuitous scene that shows they all died and should’ve listened to Jake.

Ice hurricanes. Eventually a superstorm of cold air makes its way to the Big Apple, instantly freezing everyone and everything in its path. But this is no ordinary cold. This cold you can actually see and run from. Instead of uniformly freezing the building from top to bottom like physics would suggest, the cold decides to chase our young heroes down the hallway until they close a door and stop it.

Wolves. At one point, Rossum gets a bad cut on her leg and decides not to tell anyone, meaning that at some point Gyllenhaal will need to venture out and find her medicine. It’s here that Emmerich decides the stakes still aren’t high enough and introduces some bloodthirsty CGI wolves that somehow survived both the flood and the cold. The animals have a taste for human flesh and hunt down our heroes, even though they just escaped from a nearby zoo.

This fall, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as THE OLD RUSSIAN LADY. Rated PG-13.

The Ice Age. After the majority of the United States turns in to Ice Station Zebra, Dennis Quaid decides he’s been a crappy father and can make up for it by WALKING FROM PHILADELPHIA TO NEW YORK to save his son. (Even more unbelievable, he says “it’s not the first time.” WTF?) It’s a nice heroic sentiment, but also one of the most ill-conceived plans in movie history. Mainly, because… what’s he going to do when he gets there? He and his two assistants, who for some reason volunteered to come and sacrifice their lives, only brought enough supplies and warm clothes for themselves. And they have no other faster transportation. Luckily, as soon as Quaid gets there the weather magically clears up and he radios for help. But why couldn’t he do that from D.C. without walking 300 miles in blizzard conditions? (The film is terrible about the passage of time, so who knows how long it actually took him.)

Chad could never understand why his nickname was Rapey McRapeface.

Even the parts where the world isn’t actively being destroyed by weather and everyone is merely waiting around and surviving are super dumb thanks to the script. There are also so many needless subplots that go nowhere. There’s a love triangle that’s abruptly abandoned when the second guy tells Gyllenhaal, “Just tell her how you feel, bro!” There’s a trio of British scientists who exist solely to be sad when they die. And there’s Quaid’s wife, played by Sela Ward, who’s a doctor with only one patient—a little kid with cancer. When she refuses to abandon her terminal patient during the storm, it’s a chance for Emmerich to introduce yet another selfless hero. Luckily, they’re both eventually able to escape to Mexico, something even the President couldn’t do.

“It’s too bad this wooly mammoth isn’t alive,” thought Roland Emmerich. “I bet people would watch a movie about it.”

Oh yeah, that’s right. President Gore dies offscreen in a car accident, leaving Cheney to take over, but only after he’s learned to be environmentally conscious. The film ends with the new leader admitting “We were wrong!” and thanking third world countries like Mexico for taking care of America for a change.


Enjoy the world’s dumbest reporter.

From tornadoes to tidal waves to killer ice, some of the best destruction sequences from the film. (BONUS: Creepy smile scene!)

You’d think for as cold as it was it’d at least get a little nipply, no?

We didn’t listen! We just didn’t listen! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Facial hair should be longer given the passage of time
  • The film is preachy
  • Someone stands and stares at a natural disaster
  • A human does something particularly stupid (aside from the above)
  • Someone is woken up by a phone call
  • Someone is saved by a Wendy’s

Double shot if:

  • Reverse illegal immigration!

Thanks to John and Kevin for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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