What do you do when everything that can go wrong does go wrong? Why, call for Dennis Quaid to put on his hat marked 'Hero', of course. This time, the all-American guy arrives in the unlikely guise of The Weatherman Who Warns America of impending climate chaos, like an accurate Michael Fish trapped in Bruce Willis' body.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in 20th Century Fox's 'The Day After Tomorrow'

A big-budget look at what the world would look like if the greenhouse effect and global warming continued at such levels that they resulted in worldwide catastrophe and disaster, including multiple hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, floods and the beginning of the next Ice Age

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Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Ian Holm, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders
Duration: 124 minutes

It certainly wouldn’t be nice, in the doyleys-and-tea way to which we all aspire, to state that Roland Emmerich makes money out of the deaths of millions - but you’ve got to face facts. So far he’s slaughtered the innocent by offering unto the world the profound experiences of Godzilla and Independence Day and now has coolly coughed up a spot of global warming – but due to the intrinsically boring feeling this brings, he’s plumped with wiping out all northern civilisation through a little cold spell. Maybe the melodrama doesn’t quite fit the man, but he’s nonetheless Hollywood’s answer to Angela Lansbury: wherever he turns his attention to, everyone within a prescribed radius is damned. He’s personalised the Murder She Wrote formula for the vast-scale Hollywood spectacular. Not even Armageddon by alien invasion is enough, and death by lizard is a poor relation. For this director, Mother Nature obviously has a vindictive streak.

But it’s not all doom-and-gloom, or at least for The Chosen Few, as in equally Emmerichian fashion there’s still one man who can save the day. Of course, not for the millions within the diameter of death, but only those with (slightly) deeper characters who deserve to live a little longer, and perhaps a dozen or so who he’ll grudgingly allow to survive altogether. Furthermore the proven formula clearly states that it’s a good idea for the hero to forewarn world leaders of doom, so that they can ignore him and suffer the consequences. Dick Cheney is clearly present, though disguised cunningly as an actor and Matthew Broderick was probably too busy in Stepford to play the sexy geek, so instead Dennis Quaid has had a crack at being the climatologist with a Son in Distress. After all, the idea of Jeff Goldblum being allowed to procreate might throw away any sense of plausibility.

Quaid would no doubt have amply fulfilled his brief to appear Harrison Ford-like in calm anxiety and multi-layered duty, if this production had room for anything more than one layer. But that’s an occupational hazard. When you have Roland Emmerich directing, you get flat but attesting action; when you get Emmerich producing, you get colossal effects budget; and when you get Emmerich to write a script, you get a duff script and oodles of unintentional hilarity.

Good points are equally plentiful, once you’ve been de-common-sensitised. What sticks in the mind is Jake Gyllenhaal in a rôle requiring movement. His turn in Donnie Darko was memorable for introducing to the world the pleasures of celibate post-coital slumber, and he does nothing finer. If eyes are the window to the soul, he must have somehow got his blinds stuck and, annoying though typecasting must be for the Hollywood elite, it’s entirely his fault for perfectly resembling the average student.

His duties here aren’t nearly so broad as before, as his only job is to get himself in danger and turn out just like ol’ Pa by saving his pretty friends while waiting for Pa himself to bail him out. But that would have to take place at the end – and I’d hate to give away an unpredictable ending. Which may take place in the New York Public Library. In the cold.

There’s much to admire in The Day after Tomorrow, not least that it supplies plenty of stabbing political humour during the ride. Nothing is sacred, save the few star-spangled banners that, of course, shall prevail. In this election-time political landscape Stateside attitudes to Kyoto agreements are fair game and implications of the end of humanity may at times be pilloried or exalted, but woe betide anyone who questions the infallibility of the military. Emmerich’s trademark clumsiness is also a little annoying.

That somehow a happy ending must be salvaged from the debris of world-wide destruction plays heavy on the heart, and there’s no shortage of optimistic chin-upping from those in peril and chin-wagging from the blighters in Blighty. The actors are perfectly capable, but key speeches seem rigged with all the fluency of a G.W. Bush speech. There are points when dramatic (in terms of people) action is quashed by dramatic (pixel-power) effects and, with their relative qualities, the more so the better.

On the premise that you ignore any instinct that may trip you up throughout the film by saying malicious matter such as "but…" or "that’s likely" or a more colourful abstractive, Emmerich has found that if the effects are so stupendous that you really want to believe them possible, no small-fry such as plot or the spoken word should stand in the way. And, in all fairness, they don’t. Asking for a believable story line here is effectively asking for all your nightmares at once, the type where even the most ardent Greenpeace activist would struggle to let the words "I told you so" pass their numb lips and so it’s a comfort to watch a spectacular yarn at the distance that complete unbelievability can provide. Nobody wants global warming, everyone knows its happening, and equally share the guilt of doing little about it. So the Vice-President takes the blame, Dennis Quaid saves the day and everyone’s afforded a break from some thoroughly deserved conscience-battering. This is an absolution for the masses, holy water for the unwashed and probably every other confessional metaphor that excuses our enjoyment of a pallid anecdote of war, peace, life, love, all and none of the above. There’s nothing more incongruously delectable than to laugh at prophesies of our own doom. And if irony, too, is a dish best served cold, Emmerich’s the best chef in town.

Daniel Masmanian

Windows Media Player - TV Spot 1
Windows Media Player - TV Spot 2

DVD Extras: Disc One: Commentary by Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon. Commentary by co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, cinematographer Ueli Steiger, editor David Brenner and production designer Barry Chusid. Disc Two: Pre-visualisation. Pre-production meeting. Storyboard gallery. Concept art gallery. Eye of the Storm: Filming The Day After Tomorrow. Pushing the Envelope: Visual Effects. Scoring. The Final Mix. Interactive Demo. Deleted scenes (with optional commentary). The Force of Destiny: The Science and Politics of Change. Trailers.

Scientists talk about the planet being threatened by a possible climatological disaster. In this big budget feature the threat becomes a reality in quick time. 'Day After Tomorrow' Double Disc - click here for special offer price

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