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January 16, 2022

In Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay’s attempts at satire are smothered by the smugness of his screenplay

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Don’t Look Up   ☆☆ 1/2

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey, Michael Chiklis, Tomer Sisley, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Joy, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep

Written and directed by: Adam McKay

Tagline: Based on truly possible events.

Don’t Look Up has a dazzlingly star-studded cast that includes some of the biggest names in Hollywood. It is helmed by a director who has previously earned accolades. And it has a timely premise plucked straight from the news cycle.

It is also mind-bogglingly tedious.

The new Netflix comedy drama attempts to satirise government incompetence and public indifference to impending catastrophes but promptly drowns in its own smugness.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence respectively star as Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky, two astronomers who discover that an approaching comet will hit Earth in six months and cause an extinction level event. But their attempts to warn the authorities are met with apathy from President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son, Chief of Staff Jason (Jonah Hill).

When they leak the news to the public through a morning talk show hosted by the peppy Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry), the outcome isn’t quite what they expected.

It’s a premise with potential, but Adam McKay’s attempts to dissect what happens when sincerity collides with ignorance and self-interest have the subtlety of a meteorite striking smack in the middle of your cranium. The commentary isn’t so much a deconstruction as it is self-satisfied condescension. And the characters – of which there are too many – are often obvious caricatures, ranging from Streep’s Trump-esque incompetent POTUS to Mark Rylance’s sinister tech billionaire Peter Isherwell who seems like a mashup of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and the like.

If you grew up consuming an unhealthy dose of South Park or spent a decade witnessing the glorious one-two punch of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, then you’ve already been spoiled by better, wittier, and more effective satire. And it’s not that the concept has to lose steam when employed in a feature length film, because the problem here isn’t so much the medium as it is the writing. A sharper, more fine-tuned script certainly would have helped.

As it stands, this overlong, overstuffed allegorical dramedy about the looming planet-wide dangers of climate change feels like it was developed by stitching together standalone sketches, and while it offers the occasional chuckle, its broad, obvious takes lack the smarts to make much of an impact.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

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