Adam McKay is still mad about the state of the world. But this time he's a little less condescending about it. After the mostly successful The Big Short and the mostly unsuccessful Vice, he's back with his biggest movie yet. It's got massive stars, a huge VFX budget, and even a radio-ready song by Ariana Grande. But most importantly, McKay has found something resembling a heart underneath his (understandable) cynicism. He aims his ire at more than just the Republican Party or duplicitous bankers. It fans out in all directions here, making him an equal-opportunity offender. That also means the movie sometimes feels a little scattershot.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play Randall and Kate, astronomers who discover a comet headed directly toward Earth. They're understandably freaked out, as it's big enough to wipe out all of humanity. But the President (Meryl Streep) and her idiot son/chief of staff (Jonah Hill) don't want to break bad news to the country on the eve of midterms. So these unwitting heroes take matters into their own hands, delivering their message to a rapt morning show audience, becoming instant celebrities in the process. Much of the humor in the rest of the film comes from the different ways they react to their new-found fame.
Plans to save the world from disaster get complicated when Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), an evil tech CEO learns there's a lot of money to be made in keeping billions in danger a little while longer. It's not really a surprise that the President wants to hear a positive economic spin instead of environmental doom-and-gloom. This of course divides the country further, with some Americans outright denying a comet even exists. (This is where the climate change metaphor gets a little belabored, but it's still mostly funny.)
Don't Look Up is packed with big names, including Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett and Timothee Chalamet. But its secret weapon is two of the best supporting actors around, who improve any project they're part of. Melanie Lynskey plays Randall's wife June and Rob Morgan plays a government scientist who helps get the word out. While some actors are clearly just having fun with their roles, these two are absolutely sincere, giving the film some added weight. This makes the final scene even more touching.
While we may never get another wild comedy from McKay, he's now struck a good balance between his desire to educate and make people laugh.