ST. LOUIS — If I told you there was a visible and very deadly comet hurtling towards Earth, would you look up just to check and see if I was lying or not? If you refused, how long could you actually hold out and not look up?
That's the precise hook that Adam McKay's latest movie, "Don't Look Up," swings around on for over two and half hours. A pair of scientists make an incredible yet dire discovery and try to tell the proper authorities, only to be rebuffed or not taken seriously by just about every one of them.
***MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW BELOW***
No matter who Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and astronomy grad student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) take their findings to, they aren't taken seriously-whether it be a pair of gossip show hosts (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) or the President (Meryl Streep lazily mixing Trump and Clinton theatrics) and her Chief of Staff (Jonah Hill). Only another doctor (the always good Rob Morgan) believes them, which only gets them so far.
Here's the thing. After building his career out of laugh-out-loud and highly quotable comedies, McKay has set his sights on political hot spots and pop culture white noise toxicity. The real-life comparables in this script-especially the manner in which the White House is depicted-screams of headlines pulled from 2016 to 2020... if you catch my drift. Which isn't that bad of an idea, as long as it's not beaten into the ground and our heads in the process.
In his first two tries, "The Big Short" and "Vice," McKay hit the bullseye, focusing on a couple of real-life crises from an authentic angle. In "Don't Look Up," he goes full stooge on us--and not in a good way.
Overzealous in the worst way and bombastically preachy throughout, I despised this movie. For over 150 minutes, the writer/director wants to inform us of how stupid we have become as a species. The kind of stupid that would have the better part of a nation disregard a very real threat, all in the name of outlandish and often insufferable humor. Whether it's praying on people's social media addictions or how a certain deadly slogan can catch fire, everything is so over-the-top and pretentious.
How many times can an audience member hear the phrase, "we're all going to die" without feeling like climbing into the screen and smacking the looks off the character's faces? For me, it was about the one hour mark, the moment in time where I stopped laughing at this movie that I had set out to love.
In the middle of overly-serious awards fare, "Don't Look Up" was supposed to be a completely bonkers experience that upended the competition. In the end, it just sailed way north of anything resembling an award. The only awards I'd give this one are Razzies.
If you had told me back a year ago that a movie with two of our most talented actors in it would stink, I'd have made you a nice sandwich and told you it would all be okay. DiCaprio and Lawrence aren't necessarily bad in their roles, but I wouldn't call their performances noteworthy. After the first act, they're just hard to take seriously.
With a script like this, you can't blame them. Lawrence, with her Joan Jett "I don't care" hair and boots, seems to have a handle on Kate at first but loses it, while DiCaprio just wavers around inside Mindy's odd choices. They never find the footing in their respective roles, and that dooms a good portion of the movie. This will be one they should leave off the greatest hits.
McKay's script is as maddening as it is slight and childish. Most of the humor in the second half feels like the extra plate of comedy that I didn't particularly want. Towards the end, I thought about bolting for the exits, but figured I would miss something that made the whole film worthwhile. I never left and that scene never came.
Overlong and diabolically impetuous, "Don't Look Up" is basically Adam McKay saying you're stupid for two and a half LONG hours. It gets old. There's a point when going over-the-top is hazardous to the enjoyment of a movie.
What if I told you one of the year's most anticipated films was a giant stinker? Unfortunately, against my higher hopes, "Don't Look Up" proved that saying true. Don't look at this one.