Since climatic changes taking place over centuries don't tend to play very excitingly in summer popcorn movies, Emmerich has concocted a scenario in which North Sea waters heat up to a "critical desalination point," triggering a sudden shift in Earth's environment that threatens to send the Northern Hemisphere into a new ice age in a matter of days. Softball-sized hailstones in Tokyo and tornadoes in L.A. are just teasers for a deep freeze that's likely to end civilization as we know it. Among those in peril are Dennis Quaid's action hero/climatologist, who tried to warn the fools in Washington that something like this could happen, and his semi-estranged son (Jake Gyllenhaal from "The Good Girl"), who's trapped at ground subzero in Manhattan.
Emmerich's characteristically over-the-top vision includes such preposterous moments as a temperature drop so radical that it "chases" people down a hallway, leaving a frosty trail like some weapon devised by Batman villain Mr. Freeze. The likeable actors try their best to inject a level of reality, but the script's hackneyed dialogue and predictable dramatic situations will be difficult to take seriously even by those who are most sympathetic to the earnestly delivered environmental theme. Emmerich is on much firmer ice when he turns his painterly eye to apocalyptic visuals such as a snow-covered Statue of Liberty sticking out of a frozen-solid Upper New York Bay. Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum and Sela Ward. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by Roland Emmerich and Jeffrey Nachmanoff. Produced by Mark Gordon and Roland Emmerich. A Fox release. Action/Drama. Rated PG-13 for intense situations of peril. Running time: 124 min