[Screen It]


(2021) (Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio) (R)

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Black Comedy: Two astronomers try to warn an indifferent country about a planet killer comet that's headed directly toward Earth.

Astronomy grad student Kate Dibiasky (JENNIFER LAWRENCE) and her Michigan state professor Dr. Randall Mindy (LEONARDO DICAPRIO) have made a troubling discovery -- a comet about ten kilometers in size that's on a collision course with Earth. Their finding is confirmed by Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (ROB MORGAN) from the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, and all three head to the White House to alert them to the planet killer that will arrive in six months. But President Orlean (MERYL STREEP) blows them off, as does her entitled son Jason (JONAH HILL) who serves as her chief of staff.

Realizing they need to warn others, they try to do so on a TV talk show, The Daily Rip, but the upbeat hosts, Brie Evantee (CATE BLANCHETT) and Jack Bremmer (TYLER PERRY), similarly don't take the warnings seriously, although Brie finds herself attracted to the married professor. President Orlean and big-tech founder and CEO Peter Isherwell (MARK RYLANCE) eventually take things seriously and come up with a plan to send patriot Benedict Drask (RON PERLMAN) into space to blow up the comet, but even that gets called off with a new discovery. With things looking bleak, Randall and Kate do what they can to continue warning others, all while she finds solace in the arms of young skateboarder Yule (TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET).

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

People, like the nature around them, the world on which they ride, and the universe through which they travel are constantly evolving. Granted, some people's evolution is simply from child to adult at which point they remain in stasis for the rest of their existence. For others, however, they continue to change, be that personally or professionally.

And while fans of early and similar work from certain creative types might not like change from the norms they've come to expect, I've usually found it refreshing when someone does evolve.

That was certainly the case with filmmaker Adam McKay who transitioned from goofy, male-oriented comedies such as "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and "Step Brothers" in the 2000s to the smart and sophisticated educational satire of "The Big Short."

He then followed that with 2018's similarly satirical look at Dick Cheney in "Vice," utilizing some of the same sorts of "let me explain this" asides that made it and its predecessor both different and fairly entertaining in a smart way.

Of course, some people don't believe in evolution just like they don't believe in climate change which means they likely won't be viewers of McKay's newest offering, "Don't Look Up." While the film is literally about the pending end of the world due to an approaching comet and the near-universal lack of anyone heeding warnings about that, the film is an allegory for the pending doom of global warming. All of which means, like his Cheney film, this offering will likely split viewers down the middle with blue folks loving (or at least admiring) it and red ones despising it.

Political leanings and views aside, the film -- despite the built-in potential and great cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and more -- is a letdown compared with McKay's newer evolved state, especially when pitted up against "The Big Short." That said, I initially thought it was going to follow the same, "let me educate you without being condescending approach" of his latest efforts. Most notably is when one character is said to work for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office which sounds made up, but as McKay stops the film for a moment to set matters straight, is a real thing.

As are potential planet or at least life-killing interstellar bodies and the fact that certain people won't believe in them or the dangers they present, especially if their favored source of news tells them not to. In that regard, I'm surprised that McKay didn't go the equal opportunity offender route and skewer both alarmist news organizations and those more interested in maintaining whatever head in the sand narrative is popular at the moment.

Instead, we just get a morning talk show duo -- played by Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett -- who gloss over the dire warnings presented by an astronomy professor (DiCaprio) and his Ph.D. student (Lawrence). As does the U.S. President (Street) and her chief of staff son (Jonah Hill) who think they have bigger fish to fry and have heard these sorts of sky-is-falling doomsday scenarios too many times to take any of them seriously.

McKay also sets his sights on big tech -- and the nerdy and socially awkward people heading such firms -- with long bits focused on such a man (Mark Rylance) who's determined to profit from saving the world and, far more briefly, gung-ho patriots (Ron Perlman playing a man who volunteers for a one-way trip to the comet to go all "Armageddon" on it).

There's plenty of potential and related fodder for satirizing, but most of it feels more like an elongated (if high profile) "SNL" type skit rather than the sophisticated parodies we've recently come to expect from the filmmaker. The result, while amusing and entertaining at times, feels more like shooting fish in a barrel rather than luring them in from deep in the sea.

Which, by the way, is warming up, just like the rest of the planet, which is the veiled dire message contained within the satire where the comet and no one caring until it's too late are the symbolic warnings. Not as good as the filmmaker's previous offerings, "Don't Look Up" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed December 10, 2021 / Posted December 24, 2021

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