And y'know? It was fun! Basically, it's Jurassic Park with weather instead of dinosaurs. And I've been hearing negative reviews of it, based around a number of points, none of which actually bothered me:
1. Trite plot elements. That's never really bothered me all that much. So there's a rift between father (Dennis Quaid) and son (Jake Gyllenhaal) at the beginning of the movie. Gee, you think the characters will undergo a series of character-building ordeals and reconcile at the end? Sure enough, they do. But... I dunno, what's so horrible about the lack of surprise there? The point of this movie isn't to be a deep character study. This is a fun popcorn summer movie, folks. Heck, there are a few surprises in it anyway. I can think of two at the end: I was all prepared to scoff at the movie for making a big triumph out of this small group of survivors in a library... but when a helicopter finally airlifts them out, they see lots of other helicopters airlifting lots of other groups of survivors out of other buildings in the city. Cool! The other surprise is that there's no last-minute deus ex machina to reverse the climactic climatic changes and prevent the New Ice Age. This movie ends with the world fundamentally and permanently changed! How often do you see that?
2. Slow-moving second half. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer it when movies give me breathing room instead of relentlessly keeping up the roller-coaster pace for a solid hour and a half. And anyway, it's not like nothing happens in the second half. Laura's leg is infected! Dennis Quaid's partner passes out, and wakes up later in a campout inside an abandoned Wendy's!
3. Implausible events. Yes, the weird weather conditions in this movie couldn't possibly happen in real life. So what? Part of the fun of movies is the big "What If". In fact, I enjoyed this movie most by thinking of it as a parody of disaster movies. Oh no, tornadoes ripping LA apart! Helicopter pilots instantly freezing to death! Holy crap, what NEXT?!? And while we're on the subject, notice how everything turns into a split-second wow-that-was-close stunt? It's amazing how many crazy things Jake Gyllenhaal has to outrun in this movie. Downtown tidal waves, hungry wolves, a city-size mass of superchilled air... run, Jake, run! Again, I was laughing the whole time. Besides, how can you not love a movie in which a Russian freighter drifts down Fifth Avenue?
4. Environmentalist preaching/speeching. Now, I hear that this movie is, or was briefly, something of a bone of contention between the liberals and the conservatives. I haven't been paying any attention to any such debates. All I can say about this is, this movie takes place not in our world, but in a world subtly different from ours; a world in which the laws of physics are different enough to allow these bizarre climate changes... and in such a world, HELL YEAH the anti-SUV crowd would have a damn good point! So anyway, I'd heard that there would be some speechifying in the movie, so when it started, I just huddled under my towel and waited it out.