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MOVIES: Don't Look Up - Review

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Full confession on this: I am not an Adam McKay fan, so this was always going to be a hard sell. The best things he has given us, I believe – are the things he has not been directly involved in, or involved in at least long-term, his production involvement on Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart and Succession, the best television series currently airing. His original work has been nothing short of laboured and hollow, of the moment but entirely without purpose, there is a message behind his latest, Don’t Look Up, a hyper-charged satire in its message that people are idiots and we’re all doomed, but it is no more a prestigious picture than Idiocracy, which aired in 2006. Much better examples of fiction dealing with the current climate crisis using metaphors of planet-ending incidents can be found in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.

The defence of negative reviews has been that Don’t Look Up is satire. But satire can be both good and bad – and this is very much bad. Good satire like The Thick of It and Veep find ways to be laugh-a-minute, funny and have points to prove, guided by the hand of Armando Iannucci. Don’t Look Up feels too much like a blunt-edged sword with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, using its assembly of A-List talent to tell, well, not very much at all. With all the controversy and heightened expectations surrounding Don’t Look Up I was expecting to find something worth caring about one way or the other, but the film just feels so mediocre it isn’t worth the effort – there’s not a single joke that landed, and what’s worse, is that the Mark Rylance character feels entirely misguided, a completely weak character choice when a far easier mark could have been made of the character without being ableist in the process. Jennifer Lawrence feels on autopilot, with so many stars reduced to a non-presence like the likes of Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet and Meryl Streep that they might not even be there at all – Streep puts in arguably one of her weakest performances since The Iron Lady, in rare bad form and Don’t Look Up feels far too focused on the attention-grabbing headlines that come with a cast like this rather than doing anything with them, with the same problem befalling Vice, but even worse here.

There’s a good idea inside Don’t Look Up, but it just feels unnecessarily long. The 143 minutes are a complete killer – cut out the Family Guy-style cutaways and you could probably trim it down to a more watchable two hours or less. It feels current in a way that is almost certainly going to age terribly, but what’s worst of all is that for all the current political humour it just feels like a total borefest. Nothing exciting or imaginative is done in a genre that has given us Dr. Strangelove in the past, too. There is a template for good movies in this genre doing similar things; but Adam McKay avoided all of it for an entirely unfunny experience that just tries to be a bit too smug for its own good.

Every basic joke – highlighted by the post-credits scenes, feels stretched out to uncomfortable lengths. A need for self-importance and a failure to understand basic editing kills Don’t Look Up before it can even start – it surrenders to its own point that it is trying to make, and never tries to do anything exciting or new with the material that is given to it.

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