'Don't Look Up' review: Brilliant satire lampoons humanity's inevitable destruction
Courtesy of Netflix
One of the funniest (and probably grimmest) movies of the year, “Don’t Look Up” continues Adam McKay’s hot streak of putting a smart and satirical edge on actual, real life and topical issues. Whether it’s the 2008 financial crisis in “The Big Short” or the state of the Republican party in “Vice,” McKay doesn’t hide his bluntness when it comes to history repeating itself. In his latest riot, the world is ending, literally and the only people we have to blame are ourselves. Though the films target might be a little too obvious (climate change/COVID), it still lands the mark with flying colors, enlisting an entourage of mega stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawerence and Jonah Hill to further hammer home the idea that humanity, when the time comes to sound the alarm, is royally screwed.
Such is the case when a pair of Michigan State astronomers, Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio at his most dopiest) and Kate Diabiasky (Lawrence sporting a nose ring and an appetite for rap music) discover a comet is hurtling towards Earth. “It’s what we call a planet killer,” says Rob Morgan’s Dr. Oglethrobe who runs an obscure branch of NASA that literally nobody has heard of but apparently exists. The eta to impact is six months and when Randall and Kate are granted a meeting, finally, with the Trumpian inspired President Orlean (Streep) they’re told to “wait and assess.” Jonah Hill, playing her smarmy idiot son/chief of staff, agrees: “We gotta get through the midterms” as if nothing else matters.
It sends the scientists down a media rabbit hole trying to convince the technology obsessed society their world is ending. But, as is the case in the age of Tik Tok, most could give a shit about natural disasters or global emissions, they want to know if a major pop star (played here by Ariana Grande) will make amends with her boyfriend (Scott Mescudi). And if you had Ariana Grande telling Leonardo DiCaprio to “mind your business old fuck” on your 2021 bingo card, please collect your check at the end of this review.
The tailspin zaniness of everything McKay has thrown together in a nearly 150-minute feature is quite astounding and never feels overstuffed. Mark Rylance is having oodles of fun playing an Elon Musk inspired tech guru who somehow convinces the entire world the comet can be mined for resources and thus create jobs on earth (again McKay doesn’t shy away from his bluntness and I love that about him). Next thing you know we’re seeing public service announcements and billboards expressing support for the comet, meanwhile Dr. Randall, sort of like Dr. Fauci has become an unsung hero complete with the full meme treatment. His test scores with focus groups are high unlike Kate who gets scolded for having a mental breakdown on national television.
McKay has zero qualms with skewering not only the political landscape, but the media too. Evident by “The Daily Rip” a popular talk-show with Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett as the happy-go-lucky hosts who try to keep things light and fresh. Not exactly the ideal place to tell the entire world they’re lives are ending. Nevertheless, McKay knows exactly where he’s trekking and perfectly captures humanity’s ineptness and conformity when it comes to hot-button topics. One scene has a panel of science deniers claim: “They want you to look up, so they can look down on you!” Watching DiCaprio have his full Peter Finch in “Network” moment: (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”) had me rolling out of my seat. It makes you happy to see the Oscar winner, who carefully chooses his projects, cutting loose and getting the last laugh. Same for Lawrence and Timothée Chalamet (the latter shows up late in the game as a Q-anon type skater who idolizes Kate) as both are basking in McKay’s wonderful script.
It’s doubtful the anti-science, anti-climate control, and anti-logic crowd will see “Don’t Look Up,” as to them, it’s the same ole’ “Hollywood elite” lecturing them. (Although maybe they will find it on Netflix and laugh anyway). They say comedy can transcend political barriers and McKay knows this better than anyone. Sometimes people would rather meet their own demise than admit they’re wrong. “Don’t Look Up” won’t give you much faith in the sustainability of our planet, but you can’t help and laugh anyway. It’s the best medicine when contemplating humanity's eventual demise.
DON’T LOOK UP opens in select theaters Friday, December 10th before debuting on Netflix December 24th.