The first two Potter books were more intensely visual experiences than the movies director Chris Columbus made from them. Clearly, he was working from the outside in. But Cuarón, as he demonstrated years ago with A Little Princess, works from deep inside a child’s imaginings; and although his Y Tu Mamá También is stylistically about as far from The Prisoner of Azkaban as you can get, it likewise showcases the director’s uncanny ability to depict young people in ways so fresh and true that their counterparts in other movies seem fake. What Cuarón’s new movie makes us realize is that, in essence, the fantastical world of Harry Potter is a very real one. And that’s the best magic act of all.
Forget Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. The movie that will have the most impact on the presidential race is Roland Emmerich’s disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow, in which melting polar ice caps destabilize climate conditions throughout much of the world and usher in an Age so Icy that the Statue of Liberty freezes her booty off. Emmerich probably thought he’d be helping the anti-Bush forces with this movie—the actor playing the vice-president, for example, bears a striking resemblance to Dick Cheney and is made out to be a Kyoto-accord-hating cretin—but the film, despite being touted by Al Gore and such liberal political-action groups as MoveOn, will likely play into the hands of Team Bush, since the catastrophe is so pulped and exaggerated that uninformed audiences will safely assume that global warming is just a Democratic scare tactic. (Further irony: This is a Fox film, and the Fox News Channel, that bastion of tree huggers, is relentlessly plugged.)
Many of the clichés in this movie predate the last Ice Age. Dennis Quaid plays Jack Hall, an obsessive paleoclimatologist—is there any other kind?—whose warnings of impending doom go unheeded by Washington. His son, Sam, played with deft insouciance by Jake Gyllenhaal, is trapped in New York when the fun begins—in the New York Public Library, to be exact, where there are lots of books to feed the fireplaces, so Jack snowshoes his way from D.C. in order to rescue him. He’s been a neglectful dad, you see: Nothing like the breakup of the Antarctic ice shelf to cement a father-son relationship. “I have to do this,” he explains to his doctor wife (Sela Ward), who takes time off from caring for terminally ill children to nod her assent. Along the way, he encounters weather so severe that, by comparison, Nanook of the North might well have been taking a sauna.
Emmerich previously directed Independence Day and Godzilla, and he knows his way around a cataclysm—for good measure, he throws in tornadoes and tidal waves and tangerine-size hailstones. The main event, though, is iced-up Manhattan, and as pure escapism goes, this can’t be beat. Forget terrorists. It’s so much more comforting these days to be attacked by Mother Nature.