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Stars: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Tom McCarthy

Director: Roland Emmerich

The preview audience's reaction - alternate laughter and applause - pretty much sums up the achievements (or not) of Emmerich's achingly overlong disaster movie, whose special effects of earthquake and tsunami, jaw-droppingly impressive if faintly unreal, just save it from being a turkey to match the memorably bad 1980 film When Time Ran Out...

Time is certainly running out here; the earth's core is overheating and the planet's crust is destablising. Cripes, apart from millions perishing, Wisconsin could end up at the South Pole. Not that there'll be much left of Wisconsin, as plans are made to evacuate the western hemisphere, with the chosen (or very rich) few heading for giant ships being built in China.

Central to the drama that follows is Jackson (Cusack) who, failed as an author as well as father and husband, happens to be near his family and their new fella Gordon (McCarthy) when the earth erupts. 'I feel something is pulling us apart,' says Gordon to Jackson's ex (Peet): cue a giant crack to appear between them across the supermarket floor.

Buldings topple and the landscape changes. Alas, the film has lots of 'and meanwhile...'s thereafter, but no swing, no arc, no forward momentum and a close-to-terrible script that bores you rather than advancing the drama. Morgan Lilly is a talented child actress as Jackson's daughter, Harrelson way, way over the top as a demented geologist and other performances decent enough in the face of sometimes unspeakable dialogue. Not quite a disaster, but close.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
158 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 08 Nov 2009