By Leah Rozen
May 25, 1998 12:00 PM

Téa Leoni, Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Elijah Wood

Sometimes it’s a plus to know the world is about to end. You can skip school. “My dad said I don’t have to go. There’s no point,” explains a hooky-playing student midway through Deep Impact, a doomsday thriller in which a colossal comet is headed straight for Earth.

The movie, which signals the start of summer’s silly season, is no better than it needs to be, but no worse either. In Impact, director Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker) brings—how to say this without sounding patronizing?—a woman’s touch to the disaster genre. Although she includes several obligatory, let’s-blow-stuff-up special effects sequences, Impact’s midsection is devoted to touchy-feely scenes of characters who, facing imminent death, strive to get their relationships in order before the comet hits. (Those who want all explosions, all the time, must wait for the July 1 opening of Armageddon, the Bruce Willis movie with a nearly identical plot.)

Of the large cast, Leoni does okay as a TV reporter, Freeman should run for President after playing the perfect one here, and Duvall is his usual stalwart self as an astronaut. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Neither deep nor impactive, but goes well with popcorn