DON'T LOOK UP ½
2021, R, 138 mins.
Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky / Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy / Meryl Streep as President Janie Orlean / Cate Blanchett as Brie Evantee / Rob Morgan as Dr. Clayton 'Teddy' Oglethorpe / Jonah Hill as Jason Orlean / Mark Rylance as Sir Peter Isherwell / Tyler Perry as Jack Bremmer / Timothée Chalamet as Quentin / Ron Perlman as Colonel Ben Drask / Ariana Grande as Riley Bina / Kid Cudi as DJ Chello / Melanie Lynskey as June / Himesh Patel as PhillipWritten and directed by Adam McKay
DON'T LOOK UP
contains moments of ultra macabre high hilarity as a scathing (and
frequently on point and unnerving) socio-political satire about the
absolute worst aspects of science denial culture.
It's just a bloody shame that it's way too self-indulgently
longwinded, unwieldy, and undisciplined for its own good.
The title of this
film is derived from its core premise:
The world's scientists have deduced that a comet several kilometers
wide will strike the Earth with nearly 100 per cent certainty, leading to
all life being destroyed...buuuuuuut many people refuse to accept
such a fact...even when looking right up in the skies above and seeing
Armageddon literally streaking down upon them.
These suckers either (a) don't believe the comet is real or
(b) don't believe anything the scientists believe or (c) believe
that the comet is a conspiratorial form of mass control.
Gee, doesn't this
all sound awfully familiar these last few pandemic laden years?
DON'T LOOK UP is
the latest from writer/director Adam McKay, whose career alone would make
for an enthralling documentary all on its own.
After striking critical mass with iconic comedies like ANCHORMAN:
THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY and TALLADEGA
NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY, McKay went on to become an
overnight Oscar darling with his absurd satirical take on the 2008
financial crisis in THE BIG SHORT
and followed that up with the equally compelling take on then Vice
President of the United States Dick Cheney in VICE. Now, the Academy Award winning screenwriter is setting his
satiric crosshairs on the disaster film genre and how people and
politicians are so easily and corruptibly duped into failing to follow the
scientific advice of an end of the world scenario.
Sporting a relative who's who of high marquee Hollywood elite cast
members and McKay's trademark in-your-face editorial style, DON'T LOOK UP
should have worked marvelously, but instead comes off as lacking a truly
shrewd cutting edge. When it
boils right down to it, McKay's targets here are of the fish in a barrel
variety and his film built around them really has nothing significant to
add to the discourse that we already haven't seen before in other finer
The setup for
DON'T LOOK UP is the stuff of obligatory disaster porn genre films.
Two respected university astronomers, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo
DiCaprio) and his doctoral student in Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence)
have just discovered a gargantuan comet in the cosmos that - gasp! -
is on a collision course with our planet.
Because the comet is nearly 10km in diameter, it's easily dubbed a
global killer (just like the one in ARMAGEDDON).
No matter where one lives, it simply doesn't matter.
This comet will kill everyone and everything once it impacts.
Knowing that they have just months to prepare and mount a plan of
attack to deal with it, Randall and Kate immediately bring their findings
to higher authorities, like Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Ron Morgan), who's the
head of Planetary Defense. Realizing
that they need to bring this nightmarish news higher up the command chain,
Randall, Kate and Teddy know that U.S. President Orlean (Maryl Streep)
must be informed immediately. There's
a problem, though: Both her and her chief of staff (her son, played by
Jonah Hill) think that the end of all life as we know it is not as
important as a very public issue that she's having with her Supreme Court
nominee over texted images of private parts of the body that should never
been shared in such a way. Also,
those pesky midterm elections are on the horizon, and who the hell wants
such a doom and gloom distraction such as a killer comet getting in the
frantic with worry, the trio of scientists plead their case, even leading
to the completely flabbergasted Randall telling the president, in no
uncertain terms, that "There's a 100 per cent certainty of
impact," to which the dimwitted Commander in Chief incredulously
retorts, "Don't say 100 per cent...let's call it 70 per cent and move
on." With the shock of
knowing that convincing anyone in the White House of the planet's doom is
going to be next to impossible, Randall and Kate decide to plead their
case to the people by appearing on tabloidy news talk shows, but this
backfires when a frantic minded Kate becomes a meme for perpetually
alarmed women and Randall gets spin doctored and groomed by the hosts as
"the sexiest astronomer alive."
Concurrent to all of this is a creepy tech billionaire, Sir Peter
Isherwell (played in an equally creepy performance by Mark Rylance), who
wishes to - ahem! - monetize the comet for his own gain, seeing as it
contains hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of rare minerals.
Lost on him and other political leaders is that exploiting those
minerals for financial gain will be fruitless...if every soul on earth is
I don't even
think that I've truly scratched the surface as far as the menagerie of
characters that populate this farce, all of whom seem hopelessly linked
together - whether they want to or not - in a sustained effort to
egregiously downplay the severity of this comet.
The aforementioned talk show hosts - played by a crackerjack Cate
Blanchett and Tyler Perry - are odious ratings-driven puff journalists
that seem more concerned about pop star romance gossip than they are about
the world being utterly decimated in the blink of an eye. Worse yet is that the female anchor develops a massive crush
on poor Dr. Mindy, and he becomes hopelessly entangled in a sexual fling
with this hedonistic vixen, despite his obsessive yearning for people to
hear him out about his dire warnings.
As Randall becomes a Dr. Oz-like celebrity on the show, Kate is
depressingly pushed to the sidelines and has her reputation thrown into
the mud. Parts of this
subplot are a rather cruel indictment of infotainment news and how bad
news is bad for ratings, even if said bad news concerns the
eradication of the human race. Tied
into this story thread is the mind blowingly idiotic president, who seems
willing to label the threat of the comet as fake news and seems more
paranoid with public opinion poll numbers regarding allegations flowing in
about her rather toxic choice for a position in high authority.
Even when the comet is clearly visible in the sky, Orlean goes on
the imbecilic offensive and starts the "Don't Look Up" movement.
And - wouldn't ya know it - a whole hell of a lot of 'Murica
enthusiastically joins in. Meanwhile,
DiCaprio's increasingly nervous (bordering on mad) scientist is forced to
scream at TV viewers "We're all going to die!" This still
doesn't seem to make any sizeable impact.
There are some
splendidly inspired moments of amusement sprinkled in throughout DON'T
LOOK UP, with a lion's share of the laughs occurring with Randall and Kate
becoming more and more unhinged at the daily dumbing down of the worst
aspects of American society. Just
about every person or institution that they come in contact with are of
the deer in the headlights variety that just can't comprehend - or accept
- what's coming for humanity, even with incontrovertible proof for all to
see. DON'T LOOK UP is
accurate when it comes to its targets, but I think one the largest issues
with McKay's approach to the material is that it's all a bit too
aggressively obvious, not to mention that he wants to perhaps focus on too
many targets at the same time by grouping them all together.
He's satirizing (looks at notes) ineffectual political leaders,
social media bottom feeders, tabloid news culture, tech billionaires who
think they can solve the world's problems with their wealth, celebrity
obsession, climate and pandemic deniers, science deniers, and so on and so
on...and so on. The
central message of DON'T LOOK UP is that people are too stupid to band
together to survive worst case scenarios.
They can't see the trees because the forest is in the way.
It's not the message that's the problem, here, but rather that it's
a message we already know, but this film thinks that it's somehow
revelatory about it.
More often than
not, there's an off-putting smugness to DON'T LOOK UP: McKay thinks his
work is a more cunning and smart satire than it actually is, not to
mention that it sometimes pales in comparison to many other doomsday
satires out there, like the obvious elephant in the room in DR.
STRANGELOVE or the more recent and terribly underrated SEEKING
A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (which bares a startling
resemblance to this film in terms of core concept) or, hell, even Mike
Judge's completely overlooked IDIOCRACY, which definitely was a better
incendiary lambasting of the devolution of America's collective
intelligence. Then there are
other times when McKay seems to lose control of his film overall,
especially for the way it seesaws from one new character/plot development
to the next, which has the negative side effect of rendering some
characters poorly underwritten (look at an eleventh hour appearance by
Timothee Chalamet as a laid back skateboarder bro that locks eyes on Kate,
for example, or even how Jonah Hill's bumbling Chief of Staff is just
rendered as an obnoxious SNL caricature and not much more).
The film also tries to mishmash its more over the top comedic
extremes with some moments of sincerity, but somehow it just doesn't seem
to coalesce the way it should. Even
McKay's staccato editorial style seems more distractingly gimmicky as
opposed to complimenting the inherent madness of the story.