You’ve always heard of the old adage, oil and water don’t mix; well the same can be said for certain movie genres and topics. Sometimes content can either be too divisive or too drastically different than the genre it’s being mixed with to make the collaboration work out. Sometimes it can pay off like mixing horror and comedy (Gremlins, Krampus), and other times it can feel…really awkward and not funny like mixing dramatic angst and comedy (50/50, Seeking a friend for the end of the world). The apocalyptic disaster movies may have funny moments but rarely do they feel purely comedic unless it’s a straight-up parody because the negative focus of the plot makes it hard to feel like we should be laughing about this, which was exactly the problem I had with Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up.”
When two astronomers Kate and Dr. Mindy (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) discover an approaching comet large enough to obliterate all life on Earth, they logically try and warn the world by approaching the media, the public, and the president (Meryl Streep). However, the world government and all of humanity seem to express a collective response sigh of…meh. No one seems to be taking it seriously and Kate and Mindy are forced to go to extreme lengths jumping through hoops, red tape, and mind-numbingly stupid complications to get the world to realize something very extinct level bad is going to happen. Whether it’s trending on Twitter and talk shows or waiting for hours outside of the Oval Office, something hopefully will be done…maybe.
You know; if I was Netflix or a big-time producer and someone pitched this idea to me with such a star-studded cast (Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Ron Pearlman, and even Ariana Grande); I would sign up on producing this movie faster than you can type a hashtag. On paper, it sounds like a brilliant idea. If there’s one thing the Trump presidency and the Pandemic have taught us it is that the world has absurdly bizarre and darkly hilarious reactions to life-threatening news, and thanks to the internet, no one will ever know if this is the real deal or some photoshopped video meme being spewed out through TikTok just to get a bunch of likes, followers and trending searches. But at what point does the satirical concept of an ignorant reaction to apocalyptic news actually become funny? Because after 2 hours and 18 minutes of “Don’t Look Up’s” running time; I still don’t have the answer.
“Don’t Look Up” is a satire that is far more painfully obvious than it is funny or even meaningful. You pretty much know how the entire film is going to feel and play out by the first 20 minutes: Leo and Lawrence try to tell someone, they don’t believe them, more non-hilarious hijinks ensue. Maybe it’s the fact that a lot of these responses from the government and media feel insultingly realistic if this were to actually happen and maybe that’s why I found this film more frustrating than funny. There were so few funny moments that came up and those that did were sprinkled in randomly with very little comedic impact outside of a brief random flash cut to a one-liner. DiCaprio, Lawrence along with the rest of the cast truly go above and beyond to work within the confines of the script, and every ounce of passion is felt and seen from start to finish.
But much like “Seeking a friend for the end of the world,” the dark subject matter of the story just keeps overshadowing all poor attempts at humor and reminds us of the same painful realization we knew from the very beginning: nothing is going to change. We get it, yes, this is how the world would probably react; why is it funny? Or a better question is: why does it make this film worth watching? It’s just the same cold, hard unfunny truth about the world that botches its balancing act from the get-go and never recovers throughout its nearly 2 and a half hour running time. This story drags on for too long; burning its exhaustingly long running time on the same concept over and over with no variation or any of the wit McKay incorrectly assumes it has. The best parts were literally the brief cameos made by Pearlman and Grande, that’s it.
Overall, “Don’t Look Up” puts a hypothetical mirror on our current world populace and tries to make it funny or at the least entertaining and it barely achieves either one. The cast is flawless but their dialog is clearly flawed. This is an exhausting march to the same dull drumbeat punchline for 2 hours straight and feels more like an Onion news article that’s overstayed it’s welcome. It’s an idea that is executed poorly despite the top-of-the-line presentation and casting and I hope people realize that soon enough so they don’t waste 2 hours of their life like I did.
I give “Don’t Look Up” 1 ½ stars out of 4 stars.