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HOLLYWOOD DESTROYED, BUT LITTLE ELSE GOING FOR IT.

Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

'SOME SAY the world will end in fire, some say in ice.'' - old Marvel Comics proverb.

``The Day After Tomorrow'' suggests a third possibility. It demolishes most of the planet through awesome imagery, bad science and worse writing.

Another birdbrained disaster fest from the visually fertile, narratively challenged mind of Roland Emmerich (``Independence Day,'' the CG ``Godzilla''), ``Tomorrow'' is, as the environmental activists will tell you, a cautionary tale about global warming. Only, somehow, the movie turns that problem into a new ice age. ``It's a paradox,'' one of the picture's scientists helpfully explains. No one watching will be remotely convinced.

Anyway, that established, the Northern Hemisphere is swiftly and unsalvageably hit with three continent-spanning arctic hurricanes. This causes all kinds of cool chaos: cantaloupe-size hail in Tokyo, temperatures so low that helicopter fuel lines freeze over Scotland, a tidal wave that hits Manhattan, toilet backups everywhere and, just so we don't feel left out, tornadoes that rip up the Hollywood sign. It's all quite scary and lovingly realized.

The cassandra who predicts all of this meteorological mayhem - and why, oh why, didn't the creepy, Cheney-like vice president listen to him? - is paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid). A workaholic sort, the intense crusader is not considered the greatest husband by his estranged doctor wife (Sela Ward) or the best dad by his teenage son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal).

But when Sam is trapped by the flood and subsequent deep freeze in the New York Public Library, Jack has to shrug the weight of the world off his shoulders and get personal. Though snow has made all the roads along the northeast corridor impassable, the father, who once worked at the South Pole, has gotta save his son even if he has to snowshoe it all the way. ``I've walked that far before in the snow,'' Jack declares, in one of about 25 howler lines from Emmerich and Jeffrey Nachmanoff's script that sent tsunamis of laughter through the audience I saw the film with.

To be fair, not all the chuckles in ``Day After Tomorrow'' seemed unintentional. There are funny, half-erudite arguments among the library survivors about which books to burn, and when plans to evacuate the southern half of the country are held up at the Mexican border, the political irony is cheerably delectable.

But I'll say this for the plain old bad dialogue: It helps keep the last half of the movie somewhat amusing. Emmerich essentially exhausts his spectacle potential in the calamity-packed first hour. Part two is about waiting around and trudging along. You know the filmmaker's getting desperate when, on top of everything else, he finds it necessary to throw in some timber wolves to liven things up.

But we'll always have immortal lines like ``What exactly are you proposing, Professor?'' and ``I'm using my body heat to warm you'' to, well, give us warm memories of this frigid, absurd film. OK, maybe not. But there is that important message it has to impart, which is pollution is bad or something like that. Some activists actually believe that they can build a political movement around such dopiness. But as another adage goes, ``You can fool some of the people ...''

Bob Strauss, (818) 713-3670

bob.strauss(at)dailynews.com

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW - Two and one half stars

(PG-13: language, atmospherical violence, children in jeopardy)

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Sela Ward, Ian Holm.

Director: Roland Emmerich.

Running time: 2 hr. 3 min.

Playing: Wide release.

In a nutshell: Cool-looking, poorly written end-of-the-world epic, in which global warming somehow triggers a new ice age. There's a message in there somewhere, but it's not very intelligent.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Jake Gyllenhaal is slowed by the planet's drastic weather change - and a weak script - in ``The Day After Tomorrow.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Review
Date:May 28, 2004
Words:641
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