Synopsis: Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi, Melanie Lynskey, Himesh Patel
Director: Adam McKay
Running Length: 145 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: Maybe Don’t Look Up is a movie that is meant to be seen by an audience full of people primed to enjoy this type of salty satirical look at climate change and current state of affairs, because it was like an echo chamber at my press screening. Not that all of us weren’t getting the jokes or comedy being tossed (more like direct line thrown) at us by writer/director Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice) from a story by David Sirota. We did. We very much did. I just don’t think that I personally found much to giggle about in this achingly overlong comedy that overstays its welcome because it can and doesn’t subject itself to its own brand of scrutiny when it should. I had to see this one in theaters, but you can see it at home…maybe that’s the way to do it so you can break it up into chapters and consume it in smaller, more digestible bites.
McKay’s comet comedy Don’t Look Up hits the political satire button harder than it must, resulting in a sporadically humorous watch that features a few surprisingly funny turns from a larger-than-life cast. Yet for all those random moments of spontaneous glee, it honestly doesn’t have that much to say outside of its central message about the danger of misinformation and wide-spread issues related to misuse of social media to educate the world in a global crisis. Almost as if he determined that the concept was “good enough”, McKay falls into obvious dialogue traps and paints himself into a corner by the end so that even a decidedly conversation-starting finale feels like a laborious task because of what we’ve gone through to get there.
At first, finding an unidentified comet careening through the solar system is an exciting discovery for astronomy student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence, Joy) and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street). However, once Randall charts the journey of the comet, he determines that it’s on a course straight for Earth and that in six months’ time it will achieve impact and kill everyone on the planet. Of course, the two feel like sharing the news will result in decisive action but they encounter a series of roadblocks and red tape not just in reporting the information to the President (Meryl Streep, Still of the Night) and her son and chief of staff (Jonah Hill, Sausage Party) but in being able to talk about it at all.
With the months ticking down and their claim being refuted first by scientists with higher stature, then politicians more interested in reelection, and finally by a tech magnate (Mark Rylance, The BFG) who sees the mineral rich comet as a way to harvest more materials for his business, the two are tested personally and professionally as to how much outside pressure they can withstand and who they can trust. Eventually, popular news outlets and television personalities (including Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley, as a capped-tooth talk show host) prove tempting distractions from the time-sensitive solve-for no one seems to be worried about. Can everyone put their differences aside and agree about the problem at hand before the Earth is destroyed?
McKay has been gifted with a dynamite cast, a saving grace that will without a doubt sell this movie to multiple interest groups who will show up for their favorite celebrity. Most of them wind up doing a good job too, like Ariana Grande delivering a fantastically foul (and truly epic) put-down to DiCaprio. Speaking of DiCaprio, I can’t decide if he was giving a middling Leo performance or a great Philip Seymour Hoffman one. Watching him bluster around as a hypochondriac, easily addled middle-aged father of grown children is kind of surreal and, I dunno, satisfying? In the Battle of Capped Teeth, Blanchett out flosses Rylance by not letting the teeth do the work. Rylance isn’t just resting on laurels; he’s reclining in a performance we’ve seen before. He’s giving by far the weakest performance here and as much as I’ve liked him before, I feel like his time doing these types of sotto-voce cardigan roles are over. Blanchett really goes for it, unafraid to get her hands dirty and Lawrence too bites down hard on her character’s anger, letting it boil over to great effect.
It’s inescapable that Don’t Look Up is way too long and could be ever so much shorter if McKay had trimmed out some of the less interesting pieces, many of which involve DiCaprio’s character falling from personal grace and secondary characters being revisited when we didn’t care about them in the first place. It’s overstuffed and Thanksgiving was weeks ago by now. The credits at least can be shortened. I made the mistake of leaving early because they were eternally long and of course there was an extended post-credit scene that was quite important…so don’t make my mistake and be sure to watch that ending.