Don’t Look Up doesn’t look bad. In fact, the anxious and slightly pudgy Leonardo DiCaprio sets off the severe, Michigan State-sweatshirt wearing Jennifer Lawrence quite well in the film’s preview.
Based on reviews since its Dec. 24 release, however, Don’t Look Up falls flat.
Earning a rotten 55% critical score so far, the Netflix film earns at least an average 77% passing grade with audiences. Reviewers and the general public both appreciated Don’t Look Up’s acting performances, including DiCaprio’s Dr. Randall Mindy and Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky. The film is getting panned, however, for a lack of depth as a one-note satire. The continuous joke about the obliviousness of people to anything that’s not fed to them via social media feeds or castigating TV talking heads comes off as hostile instead of droll.
According to the film’s synopsis, Dibiasky is an astronomy grad student who makes an astounding discovery: A comet orbiting the solar system is on a direct collision course with Earth. When the pair go on a media tour to inform the world, however, no one seems to care.
This includes an indifferent President Orlean (Meryl Streep), her sycophantic son and Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), as well as upbeat morning show hosts Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). There are so many stars in the film it’s hard to believe that it’s not worth a watch.
“The actors do what they can with the subpar material,” Salon.com critic Gary M. Kramer writes. “Jennifer Lawrence makes a laudable effort as Kate, who is a voice of reason and delights in telling President Orlean that she didn’t vote for her, but her childish spats with Orlean’s chief of staff/son, Jason, are painful.”
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Don’t Look Up’s director Adam McKay helmed two snappy socio-political film’s in 2018’s Vice and 2015’s The Big Short along with several solid comedies including Anchorman and Get Shorty, but instead of fresh comedy, the jokes sound recycled and overused.
“The first hour was certainly promising, but it quickly became repetitive and verbose. The thing is, nobody likes to be hit over the head with anything, especially a topic so glaringly obvious,” FlixChatter Film Blog and Rotten Tomato-approved critic Ruth Maramis wrote.
Still, a minority of critics appreciate the over-the-top plot that’s carried along by the A-list cast.
“There’s little doubt, then, that Don’t Look Up benefits substantially from an inherently compelling setup that’s heightened by plenty of laugh-out-loud funny bits of silliness and a raft of stellar, top-notch performances,” Reel Film Reviews’ David Nusair writes.
In the end, it seems that Don’t Look Up attempts to make a worthy point, but instead of hitting the funny bone, the director smacks audiences in the face.
“McKay, who wrote the screenplay as well, lets satire get in the way of social commentary. There’s something to be said for piercing reality with humor, rubbing our faces in horrible realities while confronting them with an amusing point of view. But the nastiness and negativity here just makes the filmmaker come off like a jerk,” L.A. Weekly’s Asher Luberto concludes.