Twentieth Century Fox</i>
New Yorker's flee from an onrushing tidal wave in "Day After Tomorrow," starring Dennis Quaid as a scientist who warns of a new ice age.

About the only thing missing from "The Day After Tomorrow" is Shelley Winters sinking to the bottom of a capsized ocean liner (OK, sinking to the top, if you want to be technical). That, and a petrified Leslie Nielsen.

This is a disaster movie that Irwin Allen, the godfather of such pictures, would be proud of — whole city blocks, whole cities, entire communities are destroyed, and lives are lost in the millions. The film's scenes of dangerous treks through deserted ships and even more perilous buildings recall such fondly remembered Allen productions as "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno."

Of course, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Allen's films, while entertaining, also contained some of the most poorly thought-out plotting, abysmal dialogue and cornball melodrama in cinematic history.

As does this big-budget science-fiction adventure, which is in essence an Irwin Allen movie on steroids.

And yet, it's not unwatchable. In fact, it's entertaining in its own peculiar way. As long as you don't think about it too much.

"The Day After Tomorrow" examines what might happen if global warming and the greenhouse effect drastically changed the world's climate. Top scientist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) has been warning government officials about a new ice age. Unfortunately, his dire predictions come true sooner than even he expected.

Soon enough there is baseball-size hail in Tokyo, tornadoes in Los Angeles and flooding and tidal waves overtaking New York City — which is where Jack's teenage son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is stranded after terrible weather prevents him from catching the first plane out.

While most of the southern United States begins a mass exodus to Mexico (the lower part of the country is conveniently spared the brunt of the weather anomalies), Jack ventures out to save his son — even as the temperatures drop to sub-Arctic temperatures in Manhattan.

As perversely watchable as some of the movie is, what really hurts is that the filmmakers don't seem to grasp how preposterous it all is. (This is one of the least scientifically sound sci-fi films in recent memory.)

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Also, co-screenwriter/director Roland Emmerich places these cardboard characters in extremely clichd, contrived situations (Sela Ward's sympathetic doctor character staying with a terminally ill cancer patient is a real groaner).

Still, the talented cast members — which includes Ian Holm, Jay O. Sanders and Adrian Lester — keep straight faces, which speaks to their professionalism.

"The Day After Tomorrow" is rated PG-13 for disaster violence (violent storms, vehicular violence and even some animal attacks), scattered use of strong profanity, brief gore, and some brief sexual contact. Running time: 123 minutes.


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