Adam McKay’s filmography is one of the most fascinating in all of Hollywood. He’s responsible for so many of not only my, but countless of peoples’ favorite comedies of all-time. From Talladega Nights to Anchorman – he’s simply one of the founding fathers of the modern day studio comedy. But in 2015, something shifted; he made a film called The Big Short that definitely was heightened and commercially successful due to his comedic sensibilities and all-star cast, but it introduced a side to McKay that we’ve never seen before. It was somehow a thoughtful and nuance look at the 2008 financial crisis all the while being a fantastic and often times hilarious film. However, for many people, his 2018 outing Vice – which depicted former Vice President Dick Cheney, was met with much harsher criticism. And with his latest film, Don’t Look Up, I think it just might be his worst outing yet.
When a film comes along that has all the makings of something you’re supposed to love, but you still somehow manage to not like it.. it’s frustrating! This has some of my favorite actors of all-time assembled with one of the most talented comedic talents behind the camera for a satire on America’s response to a meteor hurdling towards Earth. The meteor is a very obvious analogy for just about anything that America can, would, and probably has fumbled the ball on when responding to – from COVID-19 to global warming, the parallels are all there. And there-in lies the problem with Don’t Look Up, a film so focused on getting the most obvious, boomer-doomer laughs out of you that it forgets to say anything insightful in the process. I’m very firmly in the same camp as this film politically and agree with what it’s trying to say, but I think it goes about it in the worst possible way.
Performances wise, everyone ranges from solid to being pulled out of a subpar SNL sketch. Leonardo DiCaprio is undeniably really solid here, getting a ton of moments to exude the passion and amazing comedic timing that makes this such a compelling role for him. Jonah Hill is also a stand-out, while playing a heightened SNL-level character, his line-delivery and commitment to the bit is so spot-on that you can’t help but fall for him in this role. However, even despite a handful of solid performances, it’s almost *such* an ensemble that the entire plot and message feels lost within this giant picture that McKay is trying to paint.
At the end of the day, Don’t Look Up is a mostly harmless film, but that might be my biggest issue with it; it’s all bark and no bite. It certainly has a bleak outlook on American culture, and for good reason – but it never feels like it is smart enough to tackle its subject matter in any sort of insightful way. Perhaps it’ll spark a conversation and all my points will be completely invalid – but by the time it was over, I found it to be so toothless and achingly simple that it had me wishing to see what another filmmaker would’ve done with this concept and material.