A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has intense peril and violence, with the destruction of much of the world. Millions of people are killed, mostly off-screen, though there are some dead bodies and major characters are killed. There are brief images of grisly injuries. Characters drink, including drinking as a way to dull the sadness. Characters sacrifice themselves, sometimes by killing themselves, to save others. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of men and women of different races with courage and ability and devotion, including a loving inter-racial marriage.
What's the story?
In THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, paeloclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) figures out that the global warming problem is much more serious than everyone thought, but the vice president of the United States and other government officials dismiss Jack's call for action. With various weather-related disasters occurring all around (hurricanes, earthquakes, tidal waves, deep freezes, etc.), Jack sets out to save the world. He must also rescue his son (Jake Gyllenhaal), who's stranded in New York City.
Is it any good?
Co-writer and director Roland Emmerich gave us an entertaining disaster movie with Independence Day; this one has some of the same ingredients, but they don't mix as well. The Day After Tomorrow doesn't have the some heart or the zing that Will Smith, Robert Loggia, and Jeff Goldblum brought to Independence Day. It does have some striking visuals and cool special effects, from hailstones the size of basketballs in Tokyo to a huge Russian ship floating ghost-like through what once was 5th Avenue. But to the extent there was ever any pleasure possible in seeing New York City destroyed, that has surely been diminished by 9/11.
This movie gives us too much destruction to take in, but also too little -- we see only a small group of dead bodies, and the survivors have to deal with problems that are almost quaint and antiseptic compared to the real-life aftermath of lesser disasters. The drama seems curiously muted as well; with the exception of the Vice President's arrogance, just about everyone else is uniformly calm, dedicated, resigned, and heroic. Wouldn't we see some panic? Some selfishness? Some desperation? Some consequences? Combined with preposterous plot turns, this further diminishes the emotional impact of the movie's themes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about global warming and research the efforts by scientists and politicians to prevent further damage to the ozone layer. They could also talk about why the librarian wanted to save the Gutenberg Bible and about how all of the characters think about (and rearrange) their priorities in the face of disaster. Would your choice for your favorite vacation be like Sam's? Whose decisions do you approve of and why? The politicians speak of "triage," making the very tough decisions to let some people die so that more can live. How do people make those choices? What do you think about the way they decide to define "win?" What will happen in the weeks following the end of the movie, and what will the world look like a year later?
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