This movie, written and directed by Adam McKay (former head writer for SNL and collaborator with Will Ferrell before his Oscar- nominated dramatic comedy The Big Short which took best adapted screenplay and Vice), takes the disaster movie premise and turns it into a socio, political satire of massive proportions. It took me totally by surprise, although I don’t know why. His bio, which includes many more memorable movies and TV projects, includes Oscar nominations for best picture, best director and best screenplay. He also produced the pilot for the hit HBO series, Succession.
McKay applies his broad, over-the-top humor to territory that typically takes itself very seriously. Here, the grave reality of an apocalyptic event is met with a self-aggrandizing, spin happy media, corrupt politicians completely overtaken by sex scandals and egocentric billionaires who are more concerned with profits than the welfare of nations. The sheeplike public splits down fake cause lines and the result is complete pandemonium. This is the second blockbuster film this year to choose tragedy over a happy ending. And it works.
The film also has a star-studded cast, including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Timothee’ Chalamet and Mark Rylance. So even the send ups and raunchy bits carry more dramatic weight than they would’ve otherwise. The political sham and vapid media are clearly modeled after what exists today. In a world headed for destruction none of them give a damn. The film also has lots of action, split into three narratives to keep us engaged, and a $75 million dollar budget, allowing it to compete in the all important category of disaster movie production values.
Like many films this year, Don’t Look Up had a tiny theatrical release window (two weeks) before it was available for streaming December 24, 2021 on Netflix. Consequently, the box office is minuscule and the reviews mixed but TheHill.com reported a record-breaking 152.59 million viewing hours for this movie as of January 2, 2022. That means roughly 75 million people watched it over the holidays with their families. Who knows where those numbers are now.
Last night’s Golden Globes, typically a strong predictor for the Academy Awards but which weren’t televised (in part due to alleged kickbacks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) awarded the best comedy or musical to West Side Story but Don’t Look Up was right behind in second place. It’ll be interesting to see how the Academy comes in on this race.