Lost in the Reel’s video review for Don’t Look Up.

Don’t Look Up has been one of the biggest question marks of the year for me because I honestly had no idea what to expect from this film. All we really knew was that it had an all-star, top-tier cast, a huge budget from Netflix, a pretty basic apocalypse plot and that it was being helmed by Adam McKay.  The writer/director who hit his big-break by directing Will Ferrell-vehicles, took a huge career detour in 2015 with the critically-acclaimed “The Big Short”.  Since then, he has become an Oscar darling.  But, with Don’t Look Up it seemed as if he was mixing his early silly comedic sensibilities with his newly found love for political and social satire.  And the biggest question we all had was… is he going to be able to pull that off?  


My answer to that is yes… and no.  The film starts off very strong, placing us in this anxiety-ridden situation with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dr. Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky.  They have discovered a comet that is headed towards Earth and when it hits, will destroy the entire planet.  Their efforts to try and sway the president (a hilarious Meryl Streep, playing completely against type) to take action and find a solution, proves to be futile.  So, they decide to go to the media, who also try to downplay their findings because “the public just can’t handle it.”  This whole first act of Don’t Look Up is by far the strongest because it feels more focused and the comedy hits like a sharp knife in the gut.  


Unfortunately, I do believe this movie goes completely off-the-rails around the one hour mark.  And then it just drones on and on.  The premise is a sound one… but, for me the problem lies in the fact that the whole idea for the film takes place in that first act and then McKay just kept adding more and more excess onto it.  Like an artist who has a beautiful painting, but then keeps applying more brush strokes to it… until it is completely unrecognizable from its simpler and better beginnings.  Netflix has been known to give their filmmakers complete freedom and enormous budgets for these original films; when sometimes, these creators need to be reigned in a bit (Zak Snyder’s Army of the Dead is another example of this).

The biggest issue with Don’t Look Up as it progresses, is that this biting social satire completely loses any sense of focus.  The film pretty much equates to a lost puppy dog that cannot find its way and keeps getting distracted at every turn.  The humor is all over the place, sometimes it’s broad and improv-like, other times it’s outright bizarre and then we get the on-the-nose comedy that falls completely flat and loses all sense of its satirical roots.  The story jumps from one place to the next in what seems to be almost complete randomness, rather than a story that has a purpose and final destination. And none of these problems are helped by a ridiculously bloated runtime.


With all of that said, Don’t Look Up has one thing that is going for it.  And that thing is… its entertainment value.  This movie, despite it being a jumbled mess, can be a nasty bit of fun that is completely unpredictable and wholly provocative.  Even though the A-list cast is mostly playing a bunch of caricatures with not much substance, you can tell they are all having an absolute blast making this movie.  It seems that they are all aware that they are a part of this absurdist, wacked-out vision McKay has… so, luckily, they let us in on that inside joke, too.  


I’m not going to go over each and every performer in the ensemble, as we would be here all day.  But, there are certainly a couple of highlights here.  First and foremost, Cate Blanchett is completely unrecognizable as a Kelly Ripa-type news anchor who falls in a little too closely with DiCaprio’s doctor.  Blanchett is perfectly slimy and sexy, at the same time… and her scenes with Tyler Perry, while they are on air, are dynamic and hilarious.  And Jennifer Lawrence, totally surprised me with her sharp wit here, garnering the most laughs out of me.  I would definitely like to see her headline a more straight-forward comedy.  And like I said, the rest of the cast is having a great time; even if their characters don’t have much purpose to the overall story.

Don’t Look Up is a real head-scratcher.  My immediate thought after finishing the movie is that it reminded me a lot of House of Gucci, in many ways.  It has an impressive all-star cast, a talented proven director and pundits have been predicting it as Oscar fodder for months now.  But, what both movies have in common… is that they are overlong, all-over-the-place and the farthest thing from esteemed cinema.  Yet, they are both wildly entertaining in a near guilty pleasure, sort of way.  

Don’t Look Up will be In Theaters December 10th, 2021. And streaming on Netflix December 24th, 2021.

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