‘Don’t Look Up’ Review: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence Lead A Doomed Doomsday Comedy

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There is intrigue to be found in the wild concept of ‘Don’t Look Up’, directed by Adam McKay. The comedy about the end of the world revolves around scientists who discover a large comet they dub a planet-killer that is on its collision course towards the Earth. So PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and astronomer Dr. Randall Mindy (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) must warn the world about the extinction-level threat. When the finding is brought to the attention of the U.S. government, however, they decide to do absolutely nothing about it. The scientists, understandably take matters into their own hands. Thus begins their mission to spread awareness through a media tour. While that sounds great on paper, the film, dubbed as a doomsday comedy isn’t as sharp as it aims to be.

The film is also written by McKay (The Big Short, Vice), starring DiCaprio, Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, Himesh Patel and more, lands on Netflix on Friday, December 24, 2021. In the opening sequence of Don’t Look Up, we see Randall Mindy and Kate rushed to the White House where the President played by the delightful Meryl Streep keeps them waiting for hours before giving them an audience. In the waiting area, they hear headlines of a celebrity breakup, a general charges them money for free snacks, and the stress of screaming “the sky is falling” and not being heard makes Kate barf. She is, after all, one of the very few people who know that the Earth is about to be destroyed in a matter of 6 months and a couple of days. That is the crux of the film’s satirical plot – a dark satire about the end of times. But beyond this absurd concept, the star-studded flick has little to offer.

Adam McKay’s star-studded end of the world comedy Don’t Look Up would work better as an apocalypse thriller.

The film has a tonne of bleak jokes and humour that works in parts. One can certainly appreciate how something as big as the planet’s destruction is trivialised while news channels cover political scandals and celebrity moments as that’s what garners better numbers. There’s something darkly funny about it. But as the film busies itself into giving us a juxtaposition of visuals from space with scenes of humans blissfully unaware of the major threat, it barely taps the surface of the discourse at its core. Everything that happens in the film’s mammoth run time (its duration is 2 hours and 25 minutes) fails to make an impact. For example, there are scenes of gun violence, riots and similar incidents of problems that plague the present-day United States. These would’ve been shocking if this wasn’t daily news that we’ve been watching for the past few years. We already have so much commentary around the rich getting richer, governments failing their people and civil unrest while the world deals with disasters (from our lived experience amidst the pandemic), that these references feel overplayed. The entirety of the film felt like it was circling around one very familiar idea in spite of having the potential to explore new ones.

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With an ensemble cast this big, Don’t Look Up expectedly has some good performances to show for. Starting with Lawrence’s Kate and DiCaprio’s Dr Mindy. The two make for a fairly fun duo to watch as they embark on their crazy journey. They each get chances to portray the hysteria surrounding the extinction-level event and through them, the film keeps some of its stakes afloat. Apart from the leads, Cate Blanchett’s news anchor act is absolutely hilarious while Timothee Chalamet makes a fun appearance in a cameo and it’s safe to say, he understood the assignment. That being said, the sheer range of stars makes one wish there is something more, something worth sitting through the run time, but it doesn’t really arrive, just like the film’s punchline. Perhaps, this concept demanded a different treatment. Mindy and Kate’s growing anxiety that is palpable, could’ve been harnessed into an disaster/apocalyptic thriller. But instead we get a cosmic joke.

Verdict

Don’t Look Up was probably not trying to be the kind of comedy that makes people stop and introspect, but it also wasn’t the kind of comedy that offers a few lighthearted laughs. It was more of a failure to launch into a meaning satire. Given McKay’s previous works in the satire comedy department were award-winners, this latest film comes as a let down. One can certainly appreciate what the film is trying to say, but it’s a little late on the doomsday comedy business to give audiences a mere recounting of familiar events.

Don’t Look Up releases on Netflix on December 24, 2021.

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Cover image: Netflix



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