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‘Don’t Look Up’ is a Star-studded Apocalyptic Satire (Review)

Movies that take place during the end of the world are nothing new, but the COVID-19 pandemic feels like it accelerated their frequency. Over the last two years, we’ve seen “Greenland,” “How It Ends,” “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” “Songbird,” and many more tread this territory in different ways

With his latest effort, director Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) teams up with journalist David Sirota to craft a stupidly hysterical screenplay about what might happen if the planet was facing an extinction level event. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like that would bring about a lot of laughter, but for me, it definitely did.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Kate Dibiasky. She is an astronomy grad student who, while on a standard observation of the night sky, discovers a massive comet that appears to be headed directly at Earth.

After running her findings past her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and taking them to NASA, they are able to confirm her worst fears and try to take it straight to President Orlean (Meryl Streep). She is more worried about problems with a Supreme Court nominee and midterm elections to take on any more gloom and doom and dismisses their news as inessential. This leads Kate and Mindy to leak their findings to the press and begin to sound the warning call that Earth’s days are numbered.

Our splintered media landscape and social networks filled with disinformation tells me that if scientists tried to warn the planet that a comet was racing straight for us, about 40% of the country would just bury their heads in the sand and shout “FAKE NEWS!” That’s exactly what happens here with the MAGA crowd refusing to look up at the sky…until it’s too late.

One of the craziest thing about “Don’t Look Up” is that you’ve got three of the biggest stars in Hollywood and that only begins to scratch the surface of an impressively broad cast.

Highlights of the supporting cast include Melanie Lynskey as Randall’s devoted wife June; Timothée Chalamet as a burnout named Yule; Mark Rylance pulling off a magical Steve Jobs-esque svengali moment as Peter Isherwell; Jonah Hill frequently improvising his way as President Orlean’s son and Chief of Staff, Jason; and the unlikely duo of Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett who steal the show with their best riff on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosts Joe and Mika.

In addition to the top-notch performances, we get a magnificent score from Oscar-nominated Nicholas Britell and then two original songs that Britell co-wrote which are performed by Ariana Grande with Kid Cudi and Justin Vernon, respectively.

Ariana Grande in a dress from Valentino’s Fall 2020 couture collection performing as her character Riley Bina in “Don’t Look Up.”

A film critic friend who I respect greatly dismissed the film as “smug bullshit” and I guarantee he won’t be alone. There is an outrageous cynicism to the story that I might have found hard to stomach not that long ago, but after watching the division in our country and the idiocy that something that should be apolitical like getting vaccinated has inspired in the last two years, I think this is gonna start to feel like a documentary in much the same way Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” has.

“Don’t Look Up” opens in select theaters this Friday and begins streaming on Netflix on December 24.

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