Last year, I watched the hit Netflix satirical movie Don’t Look Up from Adam McKay, Will Ferrell’s former writer, but couldn’t think of much of pressing interest to say about the Killer Comet film. Apparently, however, huge numbers of people have watched it and argued over it, so let me jot down what little I do have to say.
I have rather low standards for comedy films, so I enjoyed it even though it’s not very funny. It’s not the satire I would have made about our current politics, but I didn’t make it and McKay did.
But, then, my expectations for McKay’s movies are low. As I explained about his Oscar-nominated 2018 Dick Cheney biopic Vice:
And as a screenwriter, McKay is scattershot, giving the impression that he spent the George W. Bush era hate-watching Fox News and now intends to have his say on absolutely everything that happened ten to eighteen years ago. Rather than focusing on a single dramatic arc, such as Cheney’s two wars with Iraq, McKay can’t keep himself from inserting brief references to multitudinous nearly forgotten imbroglios, such as whether Cheney could meet with oil company CEOs in secret—controversies that weren’t very exciting even when they were happening. Vice winds up being neither tragic nor comic: It’s like Anchorman without laughs.
So I wasn’t expecting much from Don’t Look Up and wasn’t disappointed when I didn’t get too much from McKay.
Don’t Look Up is an allegory about climate change or Covid or what have you with a pudgy, boring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence (with a distracting nose ring—a nose ring on a young woman portends Trouble with a Capital T, except in this movie about how everybody is distracted by celebrity trivia from What’s Really Important…except nobody mentions her nose ring in the whole movie). They play astronomers who discover a comet that is about to hit the earth and exterminate the human race.
But the lady President (Meryl Streep as a cross between Sarah Palin and Donald Trump) is too busy with the midterm elections to implement the federal bureaucracy’s foolproof plans.
So the scientists go to the media. But then everything gets politicized and personalized with the social media masses deciding as one that they love the overweight dweeby middle-aged white male professor and hate the spunky, voluptuous young woman grad student.
When the comet appears in the night sky, Democrats say “Just Look Up” and Republicans, being anti–The Science morons, chant “Don’t Look Up” because they don’t believe in comets. After all, who is more aware of the night sky: downtown Democrats or rural Republicans?
At least Vice featured three fine performances: Christian Bale as Cheney, Amy Adams as Mrs. Cheney, and Sam Rockwell as George W, with only Steve Carell misfiring as Rumsfeld. In contrast, only one minor player in “Don’t Look Up” is better than expected.
DiCaprio is as unappealing as I’ve ever seen him: for a leading man, he’s such an expert actor that when you tell him to be boring, he’s really boring. Also, he’s always had a weird looking face, so he always needs to diet down to what I imagine he finds an uncomfortable leanness to not look puffy. But he plays his astronomer realistically at the star’s between-movies-on-the-beach-with-a-supermodel usual 25 pounds overweight, which is not a pretty sight.
And there’s a dumb plot twist halfway through involving Mark Rylance (the amateur sailor in Dunkirk) as an autistic tech billionaire.
As President Streep’s son and chief of staff, Jonah Hill plays The Jonah Hill Character, same as in a funnier apocalypse movie, This Is the End.
I didn’t recognize Cate Blanchett as a Fox News blonde. Botox? Work done?
On the plus side, as a Rust Belt Christian skate punk, I liked Timothée Chalamet more than in any other of his movies I’ve seen, and almost felt like forgiving him for how his name is spelled.
Apparently, Don’t Look Up is what Americans want these days: a mediocre movie they can argue over politically without the distractions of good performances, witty lines, or clever plotting.