Roland Emmerich’s metropolis-destroying FX blockbusters—Independence Day, Godzilla, and now The Day After Tomorrow—feel as if they had been conceived in a sandbox: When the White House or the Hollywood sign or the Manhattan skyline gets obliterated, it’s hard not to hear a 6-year-old voice trilling out “Peee-yooowww…crash!” In Tomorrow, Emmerich buttresses his kindergarten-level artistic sensibility with some dime-store science: Global warming causes the polar ice caps to melt, slowing thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic, which in turn abruptly halts the flow of warmth from the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere. Or at least that’s the theory of the movie’s Cassandra of a paleoclimatologist, Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), whose dramatic-climate-shift model is the only thing that can account for the crazy weather worldwide. Unfortunately for Jack, this cataclysmic natural disaster is also personal: His son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), is stranded in the New York Public Library when the city floods, then freezes over. The attendant effects, of course, are always nice and expensive-looking, though not exactly 100 percent original: The instantaneous flash-freezing that befalls a helicopter pilot mimics the famous liquid-nitrogen scene from T2, and that billboard-ready image of the Statue of Liberty buried armpit-deep in snow is an homage that perhaps didn’t have to be paid. Oh, there are the giant hailstones besieging Tokyo and the tornadoes tearing Los Angeles asunder, too—which surely mean that all is lost. But for Emmerich, who both directed and co-wrote the screenplay, epic disasters serve only to illuminate the uplifting tales of the little people. Still, even if you’re willing to ignore the fact that hundreds of millions are obviously dying offscreen, it’s hard to care about, say, whether a certain paleoclimatologist is going to reconcile with his estranged wife. And the plot’s facile chauvinism is hard to ignore: While the men hunt, gather, and schlep through the white stuff dodging wolves that have escaped from the zoo, the women (Emmy Rossum and Sela Ward) sit not quite idly by, minding cancer patients and acquiring leg infections. It may be neat to watch a little boy’s vision of the destruction of the universe, but it’s no fun to sit through his script: There’s no cataclysm big enough, no effect grand enough, to distract from the disaster of the hack screenwriter. —Josh Levin