Don't Look Up

Don't Look Up ★★

In the beginning, there was light. And then, there were movies. And then, not long after that, there were people who watched those movies and snarked, “Well, that’s two hours I’ll never get back” (though it wouldn’t be surprising if that barb originated before the advent of multiple-reel cinema, maybe with some monocled jackass who wasted an entire minute of his life at a screening of William Heise’s 1896 short “The Kiss” only to discover that there wasn’t any tongue). As Charlie Kaufman is fond of pointing out, however, every two hours is two hours that you’ll never get back. It doesn’t matter if a movie is good or bad or anything in between: At the end of the day, we cannot hoard our time.

And yet, for all of the truth contained in that wisdom, certain films make it almost impossible to shake the feeling that cinema — the most palpably fourth-dimensional of all popular art forms — possesses an unrivaled ability to make us appreciate how we can waste it. Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” is nothing if not one of those films.

A star-studded comedy of terrors that boasts more A-list celebrities than actual laughs, “Don’t Look Up” may be the most interminable “Oscar movie” of the year (and just when it seemed like “Being the Ricardos” was finally on track to win something!), but it would be wrong to write it off as just “two hours you’ll never get back.” For one thing, it actually runs two hours and 18 minutes, including a couple of sadistic bonus scenes during the end credits that stretch the premise’s one basic joke to astronomical new lengths. For another, wasted time isn’t merely the function of McKay’s ultra-depressing farce, it’s also the central focus of a film that begs viewers to do something better with the time they have left.

Is “Don’t Look Up” further proof that self-importance has dulled one of Hollywood’s funniest minds? I’m afraid so. Prestige is one hell of a drug, and McKay’s descent from the galaxy brain genius of “Step Brothers” to the winky-winky self-importance of his recent work has been like watching the world’s greatest jazz musician discover auto-tune and fall in love with the sound of their own voice. (McKay’s new film is less aggravating than “Vice,” but all the more painful for being so tone-deaf to the stripe of comic absurdism that he helped to invent.) Does this sped-up satire — yes, it’s a farce and a satire — about humanity’s collective unwillingness to confront the threat of climate change perversely strengthen its point by surrendering to the same magical thinking that it exists to decry? A little, yeah!

As one of McKay’s many characters surmises as a comet the size of Mt. Everest hurtles towards Earth: “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” For better or worse, here is a movie that epitomizes what it means to have too much and not enough at the same time.

~this review continues on IndieWire~