Mimi Leder’s “Deep Impact” got overshadowed at the box-office likely due to a one-two punch of the similarly-themed “Armageddon” (released around the same time), and audience fatigue with disaster movies following a slew of them after 1996’s “Twister.” Unlike much of its brethren however, “Deep Impact” puts sentimentality and humanism at the forefront by focusing less on the asteroid’s collision course with Earth, and more on the story’s characters instead, which is a nice change of pace for this type of movie. However, one of the movie’s major problems is that those characters aren’t particularly interesting: Robert Duvall’s Spurgeon Tanner is a pompous bore, Tea Leoni’s Jenny is an inscrutable cipher (despite Leoni’s considerable efforts to rise above the underwritten role), while Vanessa Redgrave is wasted in a poignant but thankless supporting role that short shrifts both the actress and the audience. Despite the portentous tone, the entire middle portion of the movie is mostly forgettable fluff, and by the time the special effects bonanza arrives at the end, it’s all over before you know it. That being said, there are portions that work well (in particular, familial dynamics between Leoni, Redgrave and Maximilian Schell manage to be compelling once in a while), and Leder’s sympathetic, occasionally sentimental approach to the material is occasionally effective, so it’s worth a shot, it’s just not great.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)