A few years back, writer/director Adam McKay made a thrilling, intelligent and very funny movie about the fiscal crisis of 2007–2008 called “The Big Short”. With his latest movie “Don’t Look Up,” he tries to do the same for society in general. The result is an abject failure. Biting off way more than he can chew; McKay comes across as naïve and clueless with respect to the state of the zeitgeist as we begin 2022. It is fitting, that only the opening and closing few minutes of “DLU” hold any interest. Opening scene: Jennifer Lawrence (radiating intelligence as always) plays a Michigan State grad student, Kate Dibiasky, who discovers a new rogue comet/asteroid, possibly from the Oort cloud, and it’s heading our way. Her mentor, Professor Mindy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio as a shy and somewhat eccentric academic in the style of Cary Grant and James Stewart, then calculates that Comet Dibiasky is going to make a direct hit on the earth in just over six months and it’s huge. It is what they call a “planet killer”. Closing scene: Lawrence (with new boyfriend Timothee Chalamet), DiCaprio and Di Caprio’s family (wife is Melanie Lynskey) are gathered around the DiCaprio dining room table waiting to die as the asteroid crashes into the Pacific Ocean. McKay of course, is mirroring the K-T event of 65 million years ago when a similarly large asteroid crashed into the Gulf of Mexico forming the Chicxulub Crater and resulting in the extinction of over 70% of all species then living on earth, including the dinosaurs.
Gentle reader, please note that this is not a spoiler. You know from Leo’s first phone call that the world is doomed.
But oh, that intervening 128 minutes. Clueless, clueless, clueless. Although both Lawrence and DiCaprio play their roles straight throughout the film (major kudos to both of them!) the very broad satirical comedy going on around them is some of the most misjudged ever committed to film. It feels like the sky is raining verbal diarrhea on the two stars for two hours before asteroid impact. Any movie that can make the two of the greatest actors in the world look coarse and stupid has its place on the ash-heap of cinema history. Meryl Streep, playing a very silly president, simply looks ridiculous and any presumed allusions to a certain Mr. Donald Trump in this scene just backfired, Andy. Meanwhile Cate Blanchett is demeaned by playing a TV anchor bimbo with bad makeup. Those who do manage to force even the tiniest bit of laughter during this scene, know that they are not laughing with Cate but at her. Sad!
In 1964 there were two movies released about the atom bomb’s potential to destroy the world. The first, “Dr. Strangelove” brilliantly took the path of satire and was a huge hit. The other was Sidney Lumet’s “Fail Safe”, which played it straight. It was far less successful but was a very good film in its own right. The only way that “Don’t Look Up” might have worked is if McKay took the Lumet approach and treated the story seriously keeping the tone of the opening and closing segments. Despite the wonderful fiscal humor of “The Big Short”, it seems that satire, or at least satire aimed at society in general, does not become Mr. Adam McKay!
NOW SHOWING AT SELECT MOVIE THEATRES