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MSRP: $19.95
STUDIO: RHI Entertainment
RATED: NR
RUNNING TIME: 170 min
SPECIAL FEATURESNone

THE PITCH

Long as I remember, rain been comin’ down.  Clouds of myst’ry pourin’, confusion on the ground.  Good men through the ages, tryin’ to find the sun.  And I wonder, still I wonder…

THE HUMANS

James (Dawson’s Creek, Varsity Blues) Van Der Beek, Teri (The West Wing, Meet The Parents) Polo, Treat (The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All, The Substitute: Failure Is Not An Option) Williams, Luke (Beverly Hills 90210, Oz) Perry

THE NUTSHELL

Evil corporate blahblah reckless experiment blahblah disaster threatens ethnic cross-section of blahblah race against time blahblah

THE LOWDOWN

What makes a disaster movie work?  I’ll try to break it down some later, but let’s just say that if 85% the cast as well as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and White House all make it to the credits unscathed, you probably did something wrong. The set-up here is that Lex Luthor (Williams) is building a machine to control the weather.  As supervillain plans go, sure it’s simple, but there’s nothing like a classic. He employs some nerds (Van Der Beek, one of the chubbier guys from Mad Men) who give us a quick rundown of the psuedoscience, which involves a satellite laser network carving out layers of the ionosphere.  “You hack into the weather!” a perky assistant sums up, which is not at all what they described, but she’s a cute redhead, so the fat nerd agrees that yep, that’s what they’re doing.  The smarter, handsomer nerd, having just completed construction of this technological terror, promptly takes a principled stand against such appalling hubris, leaving his evil boss and inept sidekick to run the first large-scale tests.  Shockingly, it goes bad,  and global calamity ensues.


No real joke here, I just think she’s really cute.  In fairness to the nerds, I wouldn’t have been too quick to call her stupid either.

Sort of.  I’d argue that the two things needed for a successful disaster flick are spectacle and tragedy.  This is a ScyFy Channel original, so the spectacle is necessarily going to fall somewhere between the mediocre and the laughable ends of the spectrum.  It’s also aiming broadly for a PG-13 type crowd, so it’s not going to be throwing any especially cruel punches.  These limitations preclude the movie from succeeding on the basis of its premise before it even starts.  So what to do?

The makers of The Storm, wily buggers that they are, decided to make a conspiracy thriller, as goons try to frame and hunt down Dr. Dawson before he can blab about what they’ve done, and package it as a disaster movie.  Not a bad solution, but unfortunately it’s not a particularly good thriller, and has an hour of disaster trappings flabbing it up.  You have a diverse cast of supporting characters introduced in separate storylines, as such flicks are wont to do, but none of these stories really converge or even obliquely affect the
main narrative.  They also don’t generate a whole lot of tension or
pathos, since the only significant deaths occur on the conspiracy end
(the biggest victim The Storm itself claims is a secondary character’s
love interest’s co-worker). It proceeds along thoroughly predictable
lines, with Dawson teaming up with a sympathetic detective to reverse
the polarity of the laser and repair the destroyed layers of the atmosphere , in much the same way one can blow a building back together by inserting sticks of dyn
amite into the rubble upside down.


Another
modern classic is remade on the cheap and marketed to “urban”
audiences in Tyler Perry’s
PS I Nightfuck Your Butt
, in theaters this August.


The biggest problem here, aside from a cable TV effects budget, is that this is the tamest global catastrophe ever put to film. There’s a lot of head-scratching, and some talk about casualties in far away lands, but the weather doesn’t take much of a toll on the film’s actual human population.  The rain pounds down throughout, but not heavily enough to prevent people from driving around in cars (not hummers and batmobiles, mind you, I’m talking sedans) for the entire runtime, or to stop the police from organizing outdoor crime scenes complete with little plastic cones to mark individual shell casings.


Detective Comely McModelingContract in the terrifying new hellscape in which mankind cannot hope to survive.

There’s one big outburst of lightning that trashes some skyscrapers, but no one seems really notices, which is either because they’re all incredibly self-absorbed or because there was one big destruction scene budgeted and no one was sure where in the script it would fall until post-production.  But even after the major ‘splosions, power and cell service remains uninterrupted pretty much everywhere.  Really, I’ve seen more convincing displays of Nature’s fury in a community theater production of King Lear.  Still, there’s something rather funny about the apocalyptic maelstrom that “shuts down” LA looking like something Little League games in Oklahoma play through every other night in June.

The cast is certainly pretty, but fairly dull all around.  Van Der Beek shows up and isn’t broadcasting his boredom too obnoxiously, so he gets what we called in college the Gentleman’s C. Williams is much more literal about phoning his performance in, as he shares little physical space with his co-stars. Perry is handed a difficult role as a combination meteorologist/black ops military type, but he strikes a nice balance in failing to sell both sides of the character equally.  The only bright spot is Polo, who shows some actual energy and personality as the potential female lead, only to get Psycho-ed out (in a very deliberate homage) at the end of the first act to set the conspiracy angle in motion. Which is a shame, since she’s the only one who seemed to be having even a little bit of fun, and no one else picks up her slack for the rest of the movie.


It caused some tension on set, but his contract clearly stipulated that none one was allowed to look away when Mr. Williams felt the urge  to “treat” himself.


Some effort is made to give the film a distinct visual style, with constantly roaming cameras and multiplying split-screens attempting to punch up the nonstop, repetitive phone calls that comprise about 2/3 of the runtime.  These quickly move from distracting to hilarious as they begin suggest that Williams is on a conference call with the Secretary of Defense, some random bystander, and one of his own alternate personalities.  And the outdoor scenes are at least consistent in their rain-drenched texture, even if that texture is dreary and indistinct.  If you always wanted to see what Tony Scott would do with a ScyFy Original budget, then you’ll love this movie’s look. If, however, you are a sane and functional member of society, you can skip it safely without pop culture leaving you completely in the dust.


“I’m sorry, Constance, could you speak up?  I’m having a hard time hearing you over Me-From-Practically-The-Same-Angle.”

THE PACKAGE

Looks pretty bad. Sounds pretty bad.  The people involved should feel pretty bad, but with the only special feature being “Scene Selection” it’s hard to tell if they do or not.

3.7 out of 10