December 07, 2021
Adam McKay’s laboured satire challenges political indifference to looming comet catastrophe but misses out on the comedy
Don’t Look Up review – slapstick apocalypse according to DiCaprio and Lawrence
Having long complained that movies aren’t engaging with the most vital issue of our time – the climate crisis – it’s perhaps churlish of me not to be glad when one comes along that does exactly that. But Adam McKay’s laboured, self-conscious and unrelaxed satire Don’t Look Up is like a 145-minute Saturday Night Live sketch with neither the brilliant comedy of Succession, which McKay co-produces, nor the seriousness that the subject might otherwise require. It is as if the sheer unthinkability of the crisis can only be contained and represented in self-aware slapstick mode.
With knockabout hints of Dr Strangelove, Network and Wag the Dog, Don’t Look Up is about two astronomers discovering that a Mount Everest-sized comet is due in six months’ time to hit planet Earth and wipe out all human life. The scientists urgently present their findings to the White House, but find that the political and media classes can’t or won’t grasp what they are saying: too stupefied with consumerism, short-termism and social-media gossip, and insidiously paralysed by the interests of big tech. Leonardo DiCaprio plays nerdy, bearded astronomer Dr Randall Mindy, nervous of human interaction and addicted to Xanax. Jennifer Lawrence is his smart, emotionally spiky grad student Kate Dibiasky. Meryl Streep is the panto-villain president, Jonah Hill her son and chief-of-staff, and Mark Rylance is the creepy Brit tech mogul Sir Peter Isherwell.
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