Don’t Look Up is the latest effort from The Big Short (2015) director Adam McKay. As with many of his other films, we are welcomed by an ensemble cast of A-list favourites, who all deliver exactly as expected. Sadly, the rest of the film leaves a lot to be desired as the usual satirical slice is swapped for a frustrating and occasionally entertaining lecture on everything wrong with the world. But, as the film slowly forces itself to it’s climax, it fails to see that its become part of the chaos it criticises.
McKay’s film tells the story of ‘PHD candidate’ Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) who discovers an Earth-threatening comet hurtling towards us. She is then joined by Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) who helps her inform the President (Meryl Streep) of the impending doom and, well, get her to do something about it. But, this proves more difficult than expected. To describe Streep’s character as ‘Trumpian’ is an understatement, as McKay grabs all the low-hanging fruit in American politics available, and then comes back for seconds.
Many other American figures are mocked. Mark Rylance is some sort of strange Musk and Zuckerberg hybrid, Cate Blanchett gleefully mocks American entertainment news, Ariane Grande is herself and Jonah Hill is the nepotism-driven son of a Mum. A role which isn’t dissimilar to Kieran Culkin’s smarmy son in Succession (2018-) of which McKay is executive producer. They are all doing their thing, and it is great to watch them. One moment of particular poignance sees DiCaprio’s character boil into a soliloquy of rage, and it is one of the few moments that really worked.
At it’s heart the film tells a great story of Dr. Mindy’s relationship with his wife, and the importance of family and connection in times of socio-political struggle. Something of added importance when reflecting on the last two years of difficulty. Beyond this, the films fails to leave a deep impact, and made for more of a light jolt on a long winter’s evening.
Admittedly, the final moments do tap into the emotional beats it’s so desperate to hit. But, it feels more like these beats were smacked across my face with a hammer. And, if a film is to claim to be a comedy, it really has to be funny. Unfortunately, McKay’s film has all the humour you’d expect from a film about the end of humanity.
It seems that the film gets side-tracked on a quest to mock about a million other things. It’s a sad reflection on the state of society that there is so much material to mock, and I suppose maybe that’s the point. But it’s also a sad reflection on the screenplay that it fails to land more than a handful of jokes with the excess of potential available to it.
What could’ve been Veep (2012-2019) meets An Inconvenient Truth (2006) was far more Arblando than Armando. Slack when it should’ve been screwball and lacking the self-awareness to be so smug about it’s occasional smarts.
Shouty, sweary and occasionally funny. But not nearly funny enough.