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Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Cinematic disaster

Latest end-of-the-world movie is bomb, not blockbuster

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 2004 at 12:00 AM

In the movies, there isn’t just one kind of “bad.” There are several ways a movie can suck. There is “good” bad. There is “bad” bad. And now there is “The Day After Tomorrow” bad. “Good” bad is when everyone involved with the film — from the writer and director to the actors to the set designer — is precluded from making a “good” film due to a minuscule budget or a lack of talent or the wrong mix of actors. It has no pretense of excellence. This film is enjoyed in the same way a junior high school talent show is enjoyed: cringing, mouth agape with each embarrassing display of awfulness. A “bad” bad film produces the same cringing effect, but it inherently precludes any type of cheap thrill because of its self-importance or how it insults the intelligence of the viewer. A “bad” bad film is noted by how sad you feel for the loss of the two hours you spent watching it. It doesn’t even deserve the energy it takes to produce a mocking commentary.

Now we have a whole new breed of “bad.” The Day After Tomorrow has a big budget, talented actors, and a rich plot vein to mine: the climactic destruction of modern civilization. It had the potential for “summer blockbuster” before the first ridiculous lines of dialogue were ever committed to paper. However, director and writer Roland Emmerich (Godzilla, Independence Day) was not satisfied with just making a brainless and loud summer spectacular. He had to make a film so lousy it will actually piss you off. So, to further define this new breed of “bad,” we must say a film is so egregiously shitty that upon exiting the theater you will be looking for someone to punch in the face.

The film’s premise, denounced by every scientist and even the film’s producers as a load of crap, suggests a scenario of utter and immediate calamity caused by the sudden warming of the currents in the Atlantic Ocean. What causes the warming? Well, the vice president of the United States (Dick Cheney look-alike Kenneth Welsh) causes it. Oh, a couple of Saudi Arabians have a hand in it too. They are too dumb to listen to single dad and climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), who almost dies while digging ice cores in Antarctica! His son (Jake Gyllenhaal), morose and sullen from his parents’ divorce, is on a field trip to New York City. He will later be trapped in a library with a bunch of nitwits, burning books to stay warm while he works out pubescent love issues with his girlfriend and wonders when his daddy will save him. Only Daddy Climatologist can outthink the Ice Age descending upon us all. More importantly, he needs to reconnect with a son he has too long ignored. Oh, and we all have to move to Mexico because the United States is too cold now.

So truly bad. So violently, maniacally bad.

Dan DeMaggio writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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