Don't Look Up

Don't Look Up ½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Adam McKay's ode to science concerns an apocalyptic meteor that will strike earth in 6 months unless something is done about it – the meteor being a ham-fisted stand in for climate change with some allegorical allusions to the Covid-19 pandemic as well. In the tradition of his previous attempts at political satire (The BIg Short(2015), Vice(2018), McKay volleys critique at the lowest common denominator while demonstrating how little understanding he has of the complex machine that has got him in such a huff. With The Big Short, his tunnel vision prevented him from seeing beyond a few major players in the financial crisis while heralding and dramatizing a complicit few who made out like bandits. And in Vice, his seething (albeit, justifiable) hatred for Dick Cheney was so myopic that it resulted in a non-ideological cartoonish portrayal of the man, so extreme that it rehabilitated the other evil players in the room. And now in Netflix's big Christmas release, Don't Look Up, McKay and company have taken a Doomsday abstraction to smugly and lazily point the finger at one side of the political aisle while patting themselves on the back with the other.


Two nobody scientists, played against type by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, discover the extinction level meteor in the first sequence of the movie and are sent to DC immediately. Their first big roadblock comes when the President of the United States, Meryl Streep doing a bizarre Trump impression while simultaneously pretending not to be doing a Trump impression, waves them off because the mid terms are coming up in 3 weeks.


When people say, "You can't do satire anymore. Truth is stranger than fiction," this is the kind of satire they're talking about. What is an objectively funny scenario and would have played well 10, or even 5, year ago doesn't even muster a chuckle. And the scenario being frighteningly too close to reality isn't the reason it doesn't play well. It doesn't play well because you can see the maladroit attempt to write a serious political drama that's taking inspiration from the newspapers as if it's an SNL skit. It fails as satire by using over the top caricatures so zany that the lazy attempts to draw allegory to our modern world are lost somewhere between the hollow script, Jonah Hill's Perez-Hilton-cum-Jared-Kushner impression, and the fixation on "funny" details rather than a cohesive project. This feeling hangs in the air throughout the entire film, from Cate Blanchett's Laura Ingram impression, to the recreation of riots in the street, to the cartoonish tech overlord, to the woman protesting in a Planned Parenthood shirt, to the poorly photoshopped photo of the president with Steven Seagal.


In a series of eye-rolling events that are constantly hyperlinking to tongue-in-cheek real life parallels, the pleas of the scientists aren't taken too seriously because we live in Idiocracy and the two part ways while the world goes on as if everything is fine. Most notably, there's a scene in the film where you catch the tail end of a talk show segment where the two hosts(Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) are riffing on the outrageous $300 million price tag of the latest blockbuster. It is meant to be another satirical fiddle-while-Rome-burns example of this crazy world. Ironic and apt that Don't Look Up is a film costing over $100 million featuring some of the biggest names in the business and meant to be taken as a narcotic while you're with your conservative father for the holidays. It is masquerading as holier than thou while thumbing its nose at those who are too stupid to look up at the meteor headed right for us.


The film is angry. Very angry. As it should be. As we all should be. The problem with the film is that it aims its barrel everywhere except at itself, which is more of a piece of the machine ushering in societal collapse than the "hillbilly" in the red hat.


Not a cent of that $100 million goes into making the film look any better than a Dekalb commercial. It is yet another picture with horrendous and unnecessary VFX and handheld multi-cam setups seemingly initiated without a plan or a backup plan. I'd hate to see the dailies given how much dogshit ends up onscreen.


There's a line spoken toward the end of the film when it becomes clear nothing will be done to solve the meteor problem where the Jennifer Lawrence character says "they're not smart enough to be as evil as you give them credit for" which I believe encompasses what McKay gets so wrong with what is admittedly a heavy undertaking. It is lines like this and several iterations of "what happened to us?" and montages of polar bears and bees that really reveal the liberal moral crisis underpinning the entire picture. If only we would have voted away the meteor.