Review: Don’t Look Up

Score: B+

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Mark Rylance

Running Time: 138 Minutes

Rated: R

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.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.