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The Forgaughtens: The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The Day After Tomorrow - Movie Review

The Forgaughtens is a series of posts in which I revisit “forgotten” films that were released between the years 2000 and 2009, or the aughts. All films will be discussed in the context of their release, as well as their cultural relevance today, and at the end of each post, a film will be given a verdict of “unfairly forgotten,” “exactly the correct amount of forgotten,” or “appropriate forgotten.”

Here’s the thing: I’m not actually sure if The Day After Tomorrow qualifies to be a “forg-aught-en.” I remember seeing it well. I remember buying the DVD with my best friend – we were early Jake Gyllenhaal adopters – and got two flat tires speeding home, pretending to outrun the global warming like they did in the movie. Oops.

While I’m not sure anyone else has that story, it still feels like this is a movie that people remember and occasionally talk and/or joke about. Still, I guarantee if you haven’t watched this film in awhile, you don’t remember some of the hilariously stupid shit contained within it. 

The film opens in Antarctica where climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is conducting research on the rapidly melting ice shelf. Apparently, “rapidly melting” in this case means “developing a miles-long crack that turns into a crevasse into a pitch black void.” Jack jumps across this crevasse, risking death, to save … some tubes. 

Once back in civilization, he presents his findings at a conference to, among others, the climate-change-skeptical Vice President of the United States (Kenneth Welsh). He’s worried that in 100 years, or maybe 1,000, we could be at risk for another ice age. But surprise! It’s actually tomorrow. 

The science here would have you believe that, I think, the melting polar ice caps has raised ocean temperatures to the point that extreme weather is more likely (cue tornadoes across Los Angeles, deadly hail in Japan, and a massive flood in Manhattan). Then, it all freezes? And the ice chases you. And there are wolves. 

The craziest part of The Day After Tomorrow is the sea of refugees fleeing America across the Rio Grande and into Mexico. A newscaster in the film actually remarks about what a strange thing it is to see, but this was 2004, and … yeesh, it’s mad weird today what with the supposed wall and the government-sponsored kidnapping taking place down there more than a decade later. 

I mentioned Jakey Gyllenhaal earlier, and he’s still a year away from Brokeback Mountain and, I think, becoming a real force. Still, it’s fun to see him play a high school student who’s a little too smart for his own good and then just smart enough to stay alive. Emmy Rossum is his love interest – more like puppy love. She speaks French and hurts her leg.

There are some other wild characters, including a homeless man with a dog and a police officer who makes the worst decisions imaginable and with remarkable consistency. But the reason to see the movie was and remains the destruction of major cities. Los Angeles, arguably, gets it worst. Seeing the Hollywood sign and Capitol Records get swept away by a twister was wild, and a newscaster eats it in memorable fashion. The special effects don’t hold up, but it’s no better or worse than other disaster movies of the day. Director Roland Emmerich, for his complete inability to tell a compelling, character-forward story, is capable of dazzling you with sights and sounds. 

It’s hard to recommend The Day After Tomorrow too strongly because it’s just really stupid, and you can probably do better within the genre itself. But it’s also hard to lay too much hate at its feet as you sort of know what you’re getting going in and should know whether or not it’s your thing. 

It’s kind of mine, but not enough to totally forgive some dreadful bits. 

Verdict: Exactly the correct amount of forgotten.

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