‘Don’t Look Up’ is scattershot, lazy satire that misses impact



Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) find themselves in awe at how casually the president treats the prospect of extinction in “Don’t Look Up.” The film is now available to stream on Netflix.

Noah Sparkman, Editor-in-Chief

“Don’t Look Up” is the latest in a long line of “dramedies” from former comedy director Adam McKay and features a star-studded cast including Leonard DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep and more. The film is now available to stream on Netflix.
The film follows a pair of astronomers, Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence), who discover a comet headed on a collision course with Earth. After reporting their findings to the White House, they are shrugged aside and must attempt to save the world however they can.
The instant the cast for this film was announced, it was one of the most promising films of 2021. Add to this a premise that seems equal parts relevant to the current state of American society and ripe for comedic harvest, it seemed as though McKay’s newest effort was destined to be a hit.
Even after watching the film, I still believe it could have been a hit if it was not so self-satisfied. As it is, however, every single joke in the movie is so surface-level and lazy that it is almost unfathomable that they might have thought they were approaching legitimate satire.
Now let’s get one thing straight. This is a left-leaning film, almost to the point of propaganda at times. As someone who theoretically agrees with every point this film is trying to make, one might say that I am the exact target audience for this movie.
The problem is that it is impossible to find any of this funny when the comedy is akin to what you might see on your liberal grandmother’s Facebook page.
McKay and his fellow writer David Sirota are clearly content to hit as many targets as they can with little to no thought whatsoever than actually putting time and effort into making any of it funny.
In addition, the several running jokes throughout the film get tiring. When Lawrence’s character mentioned the general who charged her for free snacks the fifth time, all I could do was acquiesce to the submission that this film had placed me in.
Even beyond the laziness of the screenplay, the biggest problem with the attempt at satire is that the situation presented is not even that crazy. The goal at play is to take Trumpist America and crank it up to 11, but all attempts to do so totally fail.
For the most part, every situation in the film legitimately just copies things we have already seen in real life. Rather than conjuring a feeling that these are the crazy things that might occur if the events of the film happened in real life, it just captures everything we have lived through for the past six years now.
I know what happened in the last six years. I do not need Adam McKay to spoon-feed the problems in America to me. He is not waking anyone up here: we all already know, and we are all sick of it.
Admittedly, it would be easier to accept his commentary if there was good filmmaking on display here, but alas, there is not.
For starters, this is one of the worst edited movies to release to the mainstream in quite some time. Random cuts out of the action, brief half-second clips just appearing out of nowhere, and an inability to tell the story plague the film, and it is simply infuriating.
This is not aided by the cinematography, either, which ranges from uninteresting to irritating.
While I had skewered McKay’s penmanship previously, I am not going to do the same for his directing. This is only because it is so bland that there is nothing really to say about it.
The only real positives are that the performances are mostly okay (which is a shame when you consider the talent involved) and the score composed by the wonderful Nicholas Britell.
I still believe that we need artists who want to offer thoughtful critiques on current affairs. Art has long been a powerful catalyst for societal change, and the medium of film is one of the most powerful forms to express that need for change.
However, this film makes it clear that McKay does not have the desire or care to meaningfully contribute to those discussions.
It is because of his watchful eye that “Don’t Look Up” is a dumpster fire. From start to finish, it is lazy, dumb and self-satisfied, and it squanders a legitimate chance to offer intriguing commentary on the state of American society.