There’s something to be said about sticking with a winning formula. That seems to be filmmaker Adam McKay’s strategy since he came out with his highly successful film, THE BIG SHORT, in 2015. His biting satire on America’s subprime mortgage crisis was a huge hit with both audiences and critics, and it gave McKay his first Oscar win for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). McKay then followed that up with VICE in 2018, where he took a bat to former US vice president Dick Cheney and others in the Bush sphere. Although many marvelled at Christian Bale’s transformation into the portly power behind the throne (the film won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling), it was far less successful than its predecessor with its box office take barely covering its production budget. In Hollywood accounting terms, that’s called a flop. Undaunted and oblivious to The Law of Diminishing Returns, McKay has decided to try his luck again with DON’T LOOK UP, a satire on the current state of the US Republican party, its passionate support base and their collective disdain of science.
In DON’T LOOK UP, after Michigan State University PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence, RED SPARROW; MOTHER!; PASSENGERS) identifies a previously unknown comet, her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD), calculates that it will hit Earth in about six months’ time, causing devastating destruction on a global scale. After peer reviewing his calculations and then contacting NASA, whose politically-appointed head knows less about astronomy than a 5th grader, the pair is summoned to the Oval Office. President Orlean (Meryl Streep, LET THEM ALL TALK; LITTLE WOMEN; FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS) and her chief of staff and son, Jason (Jonah Hill, WAR DOGS), however, show little interest in the scientists’ news. They’re far too concerned about the upcoming midterm elections and the confirmation of the president’s clearly unqualified nominee to the Supreme Court to care about a catastrophic event that may come in a half a year’s time. Mindy and Dibiasky decide to go public with their discovery by appearing on a popular morning chat show hosted by Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry, THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD; VICE) and Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett, WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE; OCEAN’S 8; THOR: RAGNAROK), but their plan fails miserably when Orlean’s political base, fuelled by social media, denies the science and demonizes Dibiasky while the left wing turns dad-bod Mindy into a sex symbol. The Dibiasky Comet, however, doesn’t care. It’s coming regardless.
In case you haven’t already figured it out, DON’T LOOK UP is any Hollywood sci-fi disaster film crossed with Donald Trump, the MAGA movement, Betsy DeVos/Dr. Ben Carson/Rick Perry, Covid-19, Dr. Fauci, Jeff Bezos/Mark Zuckerberg and social media. Unlike THE BIG SHORT though, this story is anything but subtle. McKay instead chooses to whack his audience over the head with a 2-by-4 hoping they’ll “get it”. Yeah, yeah, we got it, thanks. You didn’t need to use the stick. DON’T LOOK UP is two-and-a-quarter hours of sophomoric tedium designed to please self-righteous people who like to go around to their politically moderate, indifferent and apathetic friends and say “I told ya so.” No one likes an “I told ya so” no matter which side of the political divide you’re on. But McKay doesn’t know when to quit. Even after he’s made his point painfully clear, he includes not one but two mid- and post-credit scenes to hammer home his dislike of the Trump-led GOP. Satire done well is an art. This is charmless butchery.
I’m not even going to talk about the performances because this film irked me so much. McKay’s next project is about jailed Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and her Silicon Valley con. Kill me now.
DON’T LOOK UP is available now on Netflix. Watch it if you want to throw away 138 minutes of your life.
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