Ten minutes into lousy weather in the nation’s capital, a worrywart exclaims, “The entire planet could be doomed sooner than we think!” This is my favorite line in Category 7: The End of the World till almost four hours later, when a boy scientist says to a girl scientist, “Please tell me you’re as smart as you are hot.” Gina Gershon, who must save the planet here, is always hot. And while it wouldn’t occur to anyone other than a TV scriptwriter to put her in charge of FEMA on the eve of an apocalyptic super-storm, she is still a big improvement on the putz who recently punted New Orleans. Nor is CBS trying to cash in on New Orleans. Instead, CBS is trying to cash in on its own previous mini-series, Category 6: Day of Destruction, a ratings smash a year ago.
A combination of global warming and mesospherics, of Doppler radar and blowhard rhetoric, electrifies the Eiffel Tower, pulverizes the pyramids, and even boinks Buffalo. But what Category 7 is really all about—besides vapor trails, political climate control, and careers twisting in the wind—is hot bodies in constant motion. Not only Gina’s, on a telephone or a computer. Equally hot is Shannen Doherty, who gave up chasing storms for tending bar and isn’t sure she wants to return no matter how much her old professor, Cameron Daddo, says he needs her. Hot, too, are Suki Kaiser as the wife of the professor and Lindy Booth as a reporter who sleeps with FBI agent Sebastian Spence—not to omit the tiresome teens who practically deserve abduction, the horny kids in the Extreme Weather Lab, and Swoosie Kurtz as the wife of a televangelist, James Brolin, so addled that his idea of a swell time is playing kite in a lightning experiment.
As Shannen’s fellow storm-chaser, Randy Quaid may not be hot, but he is certainly loud, with his notorious tropism toward cyclones and aliens. Tom Skerritt is supercool as the Air Force pilot on a one-way trip, Randy’s old role in Independence Day. Robert Wagner is warmed over as a U.S. senator first and Gina’s father second. Director Dick Lowry tap-dances around Craig Weiss’s special effects. And these special effects are so thumb-in-the-eye, so over-the-digitized-rainbow, that one suddenly wonders whether Category 7 is hilarious on purpose. Notice that most of the bad guys—politicians with close ties to the energy conglomerates; kidnappers of the firstborn children of D.C. power brokers—are sucked up by tornado funnels and flung unto oblivion, like cows in The Wizard of Oz. Could this possibly be a parody of the Rapture?