Review: ‘Don’t Look Up’ is angry at the right things, but lacks focus

Climate change is real. I can’t believe this is a thing that we still have to debate in the 2020s, but there is a not-insignificant portion of people –or at least people in positions of power– who seem content to let it happen in the name of high-profit margins, and have found a multitude of ways to distract the populace into either ignorance or obliviousness.

This is also the plot of Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up, which presents a world not unlike our own that happens to have a planet-killing comet headed directly toward it and a and of scientists unable to convince the world to do anything about it. Subtle, this movie is not. Of course, subtly isn’t a requirement for a satire in the form of a pitch-black comedy, but you know what is? Humour. Unfortunately, this movie isn’t humorous either.

It’s a shame, really. McKay has written and directed some of the best comedies of the last 20 years, and in Don’t Look Up he has a murderers row of talent. The cast is led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as the scientists who discovered the comet. The supporting cast includes Meryl Streep, Mark Rylance, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Melanie Lynskey, Rob Bowman, and many others. Unfortunately, however, many of the key supporting performances are so over the top they land in the realm of caricature rather than critique. Nearly every joke is so obvious as to feel like the movie is looking down on the audience.

DON’T LOOK UP (L to R) JONAH HILL as JASON ORLEAN, PAUL GUILFOYLE as GENERAL THEMES, MARK RYLANCE as PETER ISHERWELL, MERYL STREEP as PRESIDENT JANIE ORLEAN. Cr. NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2021

That’s not to say there are no laughs; Mark Rylance portraying a tech mogul who appears to be a mashup of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs has a few great moments made great by his delivery, and there is a running joke about snacks that made me laugh each time it came up. There’s also a character called “General Themes”, which is pretty funny, but only because it’s the only joke that the movie isn’t beating people over the head with.

At the end of the day, Don’t Look Up doesn’t seem to know where to focus its criticism. Climate change is a real thing, and it’s coming for us all, but rather than satirize anything specific or something overlooked in our current society, it opts to satirize everything and everyone. As put by another recently, it is a movie that feels angry at its audience rather than for it, and while the intentions are good, the film works against itself as a result.

Rating: 2/5

Don’t Look Up is streaming on Netflix now.


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