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“Don’t Look Up,” Adam McKay’s New Satirical Comedy

Don't Look Up
Don’t Look Up

Movies with a message generally bore me, and I hate art that preaches unless it’s done very subtly or with humor. Despite being an apocalyptic movie, “Don’t Look Up” certainly doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s a satirical comedy with an all-star cast, and something tells me that a lot of people will hate it whereas other ones will love it.

Sold as a climate-change movie in disguise, director Adam McKay actually imagines a large comet crashing on earth in six months – Cretaceous-crisis-style – as the scenario threatening humanity and all life on earth. The two scientists Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) who have discovered the comet try to convince the world that we have to act soon unless we are all going to die. With the help of Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) from the “Planetary Defense Coordination Office,” they nevertheless have a hard time convincing president Orlean (Meryl Streep with a MAGA attention deficit) or anyone else as a matter of fact. They soon hit the entertainment morning show the daily Rip, hosted by Brie Evantee and Jack Bremmer – Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry playing an interesting mash-up of all the empty talk shows you may have stumbled on – but they are told to “keep it light and fun,” whereas both scientists are there to announce doomsday.

The entire movie is a series of jabs at the current state of our society with a good collection of pop culture jokes: almost everyone seems extremely superficial and honestly plain dumb, incapable to acknowledge the existence of the most obvious thing (it’s right there in the sky, just look up) threatening their very near existence. If the comet is a metaphor for climate change, it could also be one for anything else that has recently divided the American public and triggered campaigns of denial, including, of course, the current pandemic.

The operation to divert the comet is canceled when Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), a tech billionaire with a clear Asperger syndrome – once again an amalgam of all the obvious ones you are thinking about– announces that the comet contains an impressive amount of precious minerals scarce on earth. With the help of social media, the population becomes divided between the ones (scientists) demanding the total destruction of the comet, the greedy ones (the billionaires and politicians) who want to exploit the comet, and finally the ones (the masses) who deny that a comet even exists… “Don’t look up” is the new campaign slogan of president Orlean who is only preoccupied with her political career with the help of Jason Orlean, her son and chief of staff (Jonah Hill).

Fiction imitates reality imitates fiction. After 2 years of pandemic and conspiracy theories galore, this doesn’t even feel like a caricature. But the movie is not really a liberal preach since everyone gets the same treatment. Vacuous pop stars (Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi) want to save the world with a hit song and platitudinous lyrics, and since the song (nominated for an Oscar by the way) is no different from any of the pop diva’s hits, nothing barely sounds like a satire.

From celebrities’ empty gestures to government’s negligence to media’s sinister complicity to denial of science by the masses to our desperate reliance on billionaire technocrats, the state of the world is not a pretty picture: are people dumb enough to ignore a threat right there in the sky? We know they are. Even Dr. Randall Mindy falls for bubblehead Brie Evantee and Kate Dibiasky seems to have completely given up towards the end. Like the pandemic, climate change, or any other collective threat, the comet has revealed the true nature of humanity.

The film will not please people who think a movie dealing with climate change should really deliver a substantial and serious message. How dare McKay try to make us laugh with such a grim subject? The end is a cartoon joke (or several jokes, so stay after the credits) and there’s no reason to treat the movie like a serious expose about climate change. it’s rather a “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” type-of-thing, even though people are gonna laugh at the Kubrick comparison. Probably, but “Don’t Look Up” is still a lot of fun and it’s always a good thing to be reminded, on Christmas eve, that humanity is doomed.

You can stream “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix or watch it at a theater near you.

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