Don’t Look Up is chock full of old boxy television static of channels you didn’t have access to. It’s nonsense and empty noise that boasts what we already know thinking its smart and edgy. And it does so in a spectacularly tragic fashion toeing the line of character types without revealing too much of who the real-life counterpart is. But we can all guess within the first line of dialogue who these powerhouse stars are doppelgängers of. I don’t think I’ve ever rolled my eyes harder enough at a movie, scene after scene moment after painstaking moment for nearly 2 and a half hours.
Safe to say, Don’t Look Up didn’t grab my attention, as a matter of fact, it caused distractions with every quick cut to more nonsense of animals eating, flocking, hunting, social media boxes pop up with chimes, whistles, beeps while big speeches are happening and getting cut off mid-sentence. If there’s one aspect writer director Adam McKay gets right in this whirlwind it is saying something we already know; humans have a short attention span and can be easily distracted/ divided by politics and celebrity scandal rather than the hard truth of what we’re doing to this floating rock we live on.
Remember in Step Brothers when Brennan (played brilliantly by Will Farrell) wanted to take on the Catalina Wine Mixer while Derek (Adam Scott) is explaining how crucial it is to make his nut and Randy (Rob Riggle) keeps shouting Pow at the top of his lungs? Yeah, that constant outside distraction from empty characters makes up the entirety of Don’t Look Up. Starting off with the discovery of a comet by PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) also makes a significant discovery that this comet is an extinction level event that will wipe out the human race on impact. Both do what is right and alert proper authorities that then gets a meeting with the President of the United States Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her loud-mouthed, unqualified, naïve son and Chief of Staff Jason (Jonah Hill). Oh, the nepotism – we read you loud and clear Adam McKay.
Being in the oval office with the amount of talent on screen would normally be something to admire, something to marvel at. Instead, it’s a frustrating build up that crash’s and burns hard. Ok, we get the satire, anything else is just beating a dead horse. Yet McKay and team don’t hear us collectively shouting uncle.
Perhaps the main draw to McKay’s satirical continuous tidal wave of nonsense is the cast – top to bottom full of star power that has countless award potential when they are attached to a project. But about half of the stars are used poorly or not to their ability whatsoever. I kept questioning what purpose this character has while the talent is being wasted before our very eyes. There also must have been a point to get as much of the talent on screen together. Succeeding the oval office disaster scene, Mindy, Dibiasky and their errand boy Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) decide to leak the story to the world. In comes a deflective news channel The Daily Rip hosted by Jack (Tyler Perry) and Brie (Cate Blanchette). Added to that scene of Mindy and Dibiasky having a meltdown of not having anyone take them seriously about a future event is Ariana Grande basically playing herself and Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi) also playing himself. That’s about half of the cast, half.
The remaining half add empty calories to an already over-saturated meal with nothing to say except to parody real-life. Midway through the first act a jump is made to Bash CEO Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance) the half Jeff Bezos half Elon Musk hybrid who holds more power than the president herself. And there we have it – the rich get richer, and the poor stay poor. His only motivation is to mine the comet for materials to grow his global takeover through cellphones. Is it me or is Rylance playing his exact character from Ready Player One?
I get the intrigue for the mirrored effect McKay was going for but it’s nothing new. Ambition aside, Don’t Look Up is audio/visual vomit that will certainly prove its divisiveness. So much promise is fed into the algorithm, but it ends up being a huge misfire especially with its true message about climate change. Irony aside with DiCaprio’s casting, he gives a signature performance that should get him a nomination. Jennifer Lawrence is spectacular but beyond those two, no one’s potential is tapped into. Himesh Patel, Michael Chiklis, Ron Perlman & Timothée Chalamet all add nothing to this movie. Star power isn’t everything if the writing isn’t stellar. Even Leo plays his Jordan Belfort to a degree but at least Mindy has a conscious realizing how wonderful his wife June (Melanie Lynskey) is. June is easily the best character remaining pure amidst the complete chaos.
Don’t Look Up goes overboard with its satire and parody and once overboard, downing us with flashing lights and loud noises to adhere to our short-term memory as if were all drones who can’t survive without a bright blue screen lighting up in our faces for 5 minutes. It’s a complete car crash in which you want to look away, but you don’t want to miss any of the absolute carnage. 2 and a half hours of deflection, distraction, nonsense and static noise that leaves you drained of any energy with easily one of the most impressive casts in recent memory, star power alone can’t save this self-inflicted shot in the foot sinking ship. At least the visuals are pretty and at least they saved the best scene for last with its chaotic jump cuts every 5 seconds.
Written By: Adam McKay
Directed By: Adam McKay
Music By: Nicholas Britell
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Meryl Streep, Melanie Lynskey
Where to Watch: Netflix
Release Date: December 10, 2021
Running Time: 2 Hours 25 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
My Score: 1.5 out of 5