[Screen It]


(1998) (Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Minor None Moderate None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
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Mild Minor Moderate Mild *Extreme

Sci-fi/Thriller: The inhabitants of Earth prepare for the devastating impact of an approaching comet.
Leo Biederman (ELIJAH WOOD) is a fourteen-year-old astronomy buff who is the first to photograph a previously unknown comet that's approaching Earth. Although he was only hoping to have his pretty classmate, Sarah Hotchner (LEELEE SOBIESKI), notice him, a year later he finds that Comet Wolf-Beiderman -- a seven mile wide chunk of dirty ice -- has been partially named after him.

Jenny Lerner (TÉA LEONI) is a fast rising MSNBC TV reporter who believes she's got the scoop on a Washington sex scandal that involves President Beck (MORGAN FREEMAN) after one of his cabinet secretaries, Alan Rittenhouse (JAMES CROMWELL), mysteriously resigns. After researching the name "Ellie," however, Jenny soon learns that it doesn't involve a woman, but actually stands for Extinction Level Event (E.L.E.) and refers to the comet that has set a bull's eye on Earth. Suddenly the fact that her parents, Robin (VANESSA REDGRAVE) and Jason (MAXIMILIAN SCHELL), are no longer married doesn't quite fit the bill as the end of her world.

The President, however, doesn't like that term and has thus sent the crew of the Messiah to intercept and land on the comet. The team, which includes astronauts Andrea Baker (MARY McCORMACK), Oren Monash (RON ELDARD), Gus Partenza (JON FAVREAU) , Spurgeon Tanner (ROBERT DUVALL), the last man to walk on the moon, and others, plans on planting several nuclear explosives there and blasting the dirty ice ball from its current trajectory.

In case that doesn't work, however, the President's also set up a national lottery where a million citizens and professionals will be chosen to live underground in a post apocalyptic "ark" to repopulate the country after the effects of the comet's expected life ending impact subside. As the space team makes their way toward their rendevous with the comet, those left on Earth prepare for the worst in case they aren't successful.

Since this film looks and is being promoted like a summer blockbuster, it's a good bet that many kids will want to see it.
For intense disaster related elements and brief language.
  • TÉA LEONI plays an up and coming TV reporter who's just as concerned about her divorced parents as she is about the news.
  • ROBERT DUVALL plays a veteran astronaut who has to prove himself to his younger team companions. In doing so, he risks his life to help others.
  • MORGAN FREEMAN plays the President who must constantly inform his constituents of their grim future.
  • ELIJAH WOOD plays a young astronomy buff who discovers the comet, but is more interested in his "girlfriend" than the approaching disaster. In the heat of the moment, he and Sarah (both young teenagers) get legally married.


    OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
    Remember, if you will, back to a time much earlier in your life when you were eagerly awaiting your birthday, Christmas, or some other special day. You didn't know exactly what was coming, but you suspected it was something special and grand. However, not only did you likely hate the nearly unbearable waiting for the "event" to arrive, but you probably also got tired of listening to the incessant adult talk about that big day. And when it finally did arrive, the thrill was still there, but the results were occasionally a let down.

    Well, that's how you'll feel watching "Deep Impact." We've been teased by the special effects laden previews and commercials for some time now, and this is the first entry in this year's hundred million dollar horse race of movies featuring space debris hurtling toward Earth (the other being Disney's "Armageddon" due July 1), While it's yet to be known just how much of our little planet gets pummeled in that other "impact" movie, this picture will severely test your patience as you wait until very near the end before anything "special" occurs.

    While such an event has been portrayed in past movies, such as 1979's "Meteor" (with another all- star cast including Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, and Henry Fonda as the President) and last year's TV mini-series, "Asteroid" (with a less than all-star cast), the recent news story about an asteroid potentially striking Earth in the next century certainly raised the attention level for such matters. There's no question that both Paramount/Dreamworks and Disney loved the free press. The former, however, will certainly hope the astronomy world will have another similar big story, because this movie will need all of the help it can get. Deep Impact? How about Big Dud?

    Although the previews imply that there's plenty of disaster action (cool looking tidal waves, crashing and burning comets, etc...), you should be aware that you're going to have to wait a long time before you see any of that. Instead, and just like all of those Irwin Allen (and other) disaster films of the 1970's, this movie features a disparate cast and their personal stories that are affected by the looming disaster. While the plot holds true to the disaster movie standard where the separate stories barely connect -- if at all -- it deviates from the norm by holding off the disaster until the end.

    The movie's all buildup, and when the final -- and costly -- special effects finally arrive we're thankful, but only because we know the movie has to be nearly over. The effects are nicely done, and obviously were the focus of all of the filmmakers' collective attention. Since the rest of the movie is so boring, however, you'll probably begin rooting for the big and dirty chunks of ice to hurry up and get to work. Alas, they don't and we're subjected to nearly two hours of uneventful tantalization.

    The problem is actually multifaceted. Since there are so many characters in too many different story lines, our attention must constantly switch back and forth among the stories, thus defeating any momentum that might have been building in any given one. In addition, since there's no main character to root for, we never get deeply involved in any of the stories.

    More significant, however, is that the entire buildup leading to the eventual impact is rather boring. Sure, there's a fun segment where the astronauts plant nukes on the comet, but director Mimi Leder ("The Peacemaker," TV's "ER") otherwise delivers leaden scenes that are presumably supposed to make us care for these people and what's to become of them (like "Titanic" where we know what's going to happen).

    Instead, these scenes offer little or no emotional or even visceral impact on us, and thus we have no vested interest in the characters or their stories. Part of that lies with the fact that for the world shortly coming to an end, everyone seems rather calm. Not denial calm, or belief that the astronauts will succeed calm, but unbelievable movie calm. Knowing their fate so far in advance could have generated some interesting behavior amongst the doomed inhabitants, but instead we just get to see the usual last minute, get out of town panic so commonly found in such movies.

    Beyond the obvious advantage of making the people more believable and sympathetic, Leder should have also used a computer animated visual aide (as was done in "Titanic" to show us how the ship sank) that at least would have demonstrated what would happen when the comet hit the Earth. With just one Presidential (and only verbal) description of how the world will end, the impact isn't that strong. One never gets the feeling that the world is indeed doomed as happened, in say, "Independence Day."

    Beyond their up close interaction with the comet, even the astronaut scenes are dull and listless, especially considering the heroic, potentially lifesaving nature of their mission. Compared with the currently airing and fabulously constructed HBO mini-series, "From The Earth To The Moon," the scenes here are nothing more than typical Hollywood drivel. In that mini-series we learn about the men who were to become astronauts and thus care about their dangerous missions. Here, the astronauts are flat characters who can only be differentiated by their appearances and thus don't draw us into their mission.

    Not even the great Robert Duvall ("The Apostle," "Tender Mercies") can do much with his character and thus can't save those scenes or the movie in general. In fact, most of the cast is wasted in their shallowly constructed characters that come courtesy of screenwriters Michael Tolkin and Bruce Joel Rubin (the latter whose talents in films such as "Ghost" and "Jacob's Ladder" are nowhere to be found in this flick). Duvall gets to play the old veteran on the mission (can you say John Glenn?) who must prove himself to the young whippersnappers accompanying him, but nothing much ever comes of that and he isn't given much else with which to work.

    The same holds true for three-time Oscar nominee Morgan Freeman ("Driving Miss Daisy," "The Shawshank Redemption") who not surprisingly bring a qualified dignity to his role as the President. Unfortunately, he isn't given much to do other than make many TV appearances and we never get close to knowing the man behind the Oval Office. Elijah Wood ("The Ice Storm," "Flipper") gets to run around with his usual wide-eyed and mystified expression, while Oscar winners Vanessa Redgrave ("Julia") and Maximilian Schell ("Judgement At Nuremberg") are completely wasted in their roles in a completely unnecessary subplot.

    Of course the movie's more concerned with special effects than characters, and when finally called upon, delivers in a mighty fashion. If you've ever wondered what a several hundred foot high tidal wave looks like while slamming into several well-known architectural landmarks, make sure you wake up near the end to see the glorious details.

    Not surprisingly, once the effects arrive everything else becomes quite preposterously stupid. Such moments include NASA officials still at work with only a few hours left in their lives, Leo not only finding his teenage bride in a massive, miles long traffic jam, but then running with her up a mountain faster than a ski lift and, of course, the approaching tidal wave, and finally Jenny making it from Washington to somewhere on the Atlantic coast in what has to be a world speed record.

    That's standard fare for your typical big budget summer action flick and is forgivable if the movie's outrageously entertaining enough to viscerally stun you into not caring. Unfortunately, this film isn't. While we understand what the filmmakers were striving for, we never end up caring for the story's characters. Thus, the proceedings become quite tedious, and after waiting nearly two hours for the short-lived special effects payoff, you may begin to secretly hope that the tidal wave got those responsible for this boring flick. Even if it didn't, their careers will be all washed up if they continue to make pictures like this. We give "Deep Impact" a 2.5 out of 10.

    Language and the overall pending Armageddon will be of most concern to parents. At least one "f" word is uttered (with two more possible ones) along with an assortment of other profanities and phrases. The movie's concept may be unnerving to some adults and even more younger kids who might find it rather frightening. A few tense scenes do occur, and the final tidal wave destruction results in millions of deaths (more implied than seen). There's some talk about divorces (concerning an adult child) and some moments where families have to say their good- byes as they prepare for their deaths, all of which again might be upsetting to younger kids. Since many of them will probably want to see this film, we suggest that you take a look through the content to determine whether it's appropriate for them or for anyone else in your home.

  • Jenny's mother has drink in front of her, and later a glass of wine by her.
  • When meeting her father and his new wife (who have wine or champagne), Jenny orders a martini and then drinks it in one long gulp (after she's learned what's coming).
  • Jenny's father and stepmother have drinks again.
  • A man pours several women some liquor at a party, while others drink beer, including Spurgeon.
  • The astronauts drink in a bar.
  • We see some bottles of beer on a table in a newsroom.
  • An astronaut has boils or blisters on his face (from a space induced "sun burn").
  • Some of the younger astronauts make derogatory comments concerning Spurgeon's presence on their trip, stating that he's just a public relations figure and is too old.
  • Jenny's father won't go to his ex-wife (even after Jenny's insistence that he do so) in her time of need, and later Jenny doesn't immediately help her father in his time of need.
  • Young kids may find the whole concept of the movie as rather frightening and may worry that the same will actually happen.
  • There's a long scene where an astronomer is racing down a highway where we see a truck driver falling asleep at the wheel of a truck approaching him.
  • Some mysterious men smash into Jenny's car and force her off onto a deserted highway (they turn out to be F.B.I. agents).
  • Some may find the scene where the Messiah flies through the tail of the comet (and is hit by debris) as tense.
  • The crew of the Messiah must plant their nuclear weapons on the comet and get off before the sun hits the area where they're working (or the temperature will rise to lethal levels). As the "sunrise" nears, one member is deep in a hole trying to dislodge a nuke and the crew then scrambles to get back to the ship and to safety.
  • The shockwave of the nuclear blast hits the Messiah and the crew must hold on.
  • The entire ending where the comets approach Earth and one strikes it, creating huge tidal waves, may be tense to some viewers.
  • Handguns: Seen in holsters worn by F.B.I. agents.
  • Nuclear weapons: Exploded in the comet.
  • Machine guns: Carried by military and national guard soldiers to keep people from rioting.
  • Phrases: "Piss off," "Hell hole," "What the hell," "Holy sh*t," "Bastard" and "Crap."
  • None.
  • There is a moderate amount of tension filled music in the movie.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word (with the possibility of 2 more: In one, an assignment editor says, "Let's not muck it up," but that could have been an "f" word, and later a Russian astronaut says what sounded like the "f" word), 5 "s" words, 10 hells, 3 S.O.B.'s, 3 damns, 1 ass, and 3 uses each of "G-damn," "Jesus," and "Oh God," 2 uses of "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "Christ," "God," "Jesus Christ," "Oh Christ," and "Sweet mother of God" as exclamations.
  • A woman tells Jenny about a White House official, "I didn't have sex with him. But somebody else did."
  • Jenny's new stepmother shows a bit of cleavage in her dress.
  • A student, referring to Leo's newfound fame from discovering the comet, tells him, "You know, you're going to have sex a lot more than anyone else now," referring to his belief that being famous has such benefits.
  • An astronaut tells his unborn baby that when it first enters Earth's atmosphere to immediately proceed up the exterior of the mother ship (ie. To go for the mother's breasts).
  • Jenny's mother smokes, as do several minor characters.
  • Several scenes concern Jenny having to deal with her divorced parents and the fact that her father has remarried a woman only a few years older than her. Later, Jenny learns that her mother is dead (from a never seen suicide).
  • Jenny's father then finds her and says that he needs her. She refuses to comfort him and instead asks, "How does it feel?" (relating it to her telling him that her mother needed him). Later, however, they do make up.
  • There are several scenes where parents are worried and/or say good-bye to their kids in the face of the looming disaster.
  • We briefly hear about Spurgeon's wife being dead.
  • Some astronauts say good-bye to their families knowing they'll never see them again (including a mother who tells her young child to take care of her father).
  • The odds of such an event actually occurring. As such, some young kids may find the whole concept of the movie as rather frightening and may worry that the same will actually happen.
  • Why anyone over the age of fifty wasn't allowed to be chosen in the "Ark" lottery.
  • The fact that young teenagers Leo and Sarah get married (so that he can bring her to the impact shelter as "family").
  • The extreme rating comes from the fact that millions of people are killed. Even so, we don't ever see much direct or intentional human to human violence.
  • A man loses control of his car that goes over an embankment and crashes down a hill where it explodes, killing the man.
  • Some F.B.I. agents purposefully run their car into the back of Jenny's car.
  • A man presumably dies after being sucked into space and another man receives burns on his face from intense solar radiation.
  • Nuclear explosions break the comet into two pieces.
  • Jenny's mother commits suicide (not seen).
  • We see some TV footage of purposefully set fires and of people protesting and throwing things at others.
  • People are killed as they purposefully blow up a chunk of the comet (we don't see their deaths, but there's no doubt they're killed).
  • Millions of people are killed (but not directly seen) and entire cities are destroyed by massive tidal waves all across the world.

  • Reviewed May 4, 1998

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