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By Herb Kane | June 16, 2004

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Roger Ebert (, Peter Travers (, Colin Kennedy (, Rob Blackwelder (, Mick LaSalle (, Megan Lehmann (, Peter Vonder Haar (, Peter Sobczynski (

**** (out of 5 stars)

A few film critics may say “The Day After Tomorrow” is a cinematic disaster, but I think their brains got sucked up in a 300mph F5 tornado.

“The Day After Tomorrow” is a movie about our planet’s weather bringing Earth to an ice age. The story doesn’t matter in this movie because Mother Nature is the star and she simply steals the show. We pay attention to the devastating weather and those caught up in it. People run for higher ground when the ocean floods New York, they dodge tornadoes that clobber Los Angeles and die instantly from a deep freeze that will turn a human into an ice cube in milliseconds.

Roger Ebert ( said, “So, yes, the movie is profoundly silly. What surprised me is that it’s also very scary. The special effects are on such an awesome scale that the movie works despite its cornball plotting.”

I agree. The plot is just tolerable enough to watch. The CGI is exceptional and the movie trailer did not do it any justice. Then again, Rolling Stone‘s review from Peter Travers didn’t do this film justice either. He said, “The only truly scary thing about this doomsday popcorn flick is the monumental ineptitude of the acting, writing and directing.”

Ok. I’ll give you the inept screenplay, Peter – but the acting? C’mon. The actors elevated their characters far above the writing given them. I especially liked Dennis Quaid’s performance as Jack Hall and Jake Gyllenhaal as Sam (his son). Other critics got it right:

“Luckily, Emmerich has always cast actors rather than stars…with Quaid spreading grit and gravitas and Gyllenhaal gamely skating the comic margins of the material, the movie just about keeps its footing…” Colin Kennedy (

“Dedicated actors that they are, Gyllenhaal and Quaid fully throw themselves into their characters, and it’s interest in these two men that keeps the picture’s human element alive.” Rob Blackwelder (

“Quaid acts as though the story is considerably better than good enough…his straight-ahead seriousness may be slightly misplaced at times — the script sometimes fails him — but his commitment is still admirable, and the movie benefits. He’s a rock.” Mick LaSalle (

Travers thinks Roland Emmerich’s directing here is inept, but I say his vision brought to life a mediocre script – and he made it difficult to distinguish CGI from reality.

“The CGI may not always be entirely photo-realistic, but these sequences have sweep and power and, in places, an almost eerie beauty.” Colin Kennedy (

“From the Russian supertanker floating up Fifth Avenue, to the brittle flash-freezing of New York’s skyscrapers, to the thundering beauty of the gathering storm clouds, these are wow-worthy visuals on a grand scale.” Megan Lehmann (

“The disaster money shots are some of the finest ever filmed.” Pete Vonder Haar (

Yes – most critics agree the special effects are outstanding, but others complain it’s a bit too much. Peter Sobczynski ( said, “Emmerich keeps trying to up the dramatic ante by adding contrivances so overdone that they quickly become absurd. Instead of one devastating tornado hitting L.A., he gives us no fewer than six.”

And this is hard to believe, Peter? One week before I saw this movie – my very region was inundated with one of the worst storms to ever hit Iowa, West Virginia, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Nearly all the homes in Bradgate, Iowa were destroyed by tornadoes – and several touched down about 20 miles from my very home. I remember thinking how strange this is happening right before a weather disaster movie opens. I conclude six tornadoes are very likely in an unlikely event such as the one portrayed in this film.

The movie’s handling of the politically charged issue of global warming may be one reason the plot sucked. Deriving a political message from a hugely unscientific scenario is not the way to go about it. When Al Gore endorsed it (Mr. Exciting himself) – that should have sounded alarms for a re-write.

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) summed the movie up best, “‘The Day After Tomorrow’ isn’t satisfying in every way, but in the ways that really matter, it’s one superior disaster movie.”

Mother Nature is the star of “The Day After Tomorrow” and I enjoyed her performance, but a tidal wave of negative reviews such as Peter Travers is an unnatural disaster.


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