Don’t Look Up: an attempted political comedy

Aiden Keenan, Photo Editor

Though an effective political commentary, Adam McKay’s film “Don’t Look Up” fails to live up to its genre as a comedy. The film follows the story of two astrophysicists, Ph.D. candidate Kate Dibiasky and Randall Mindy, Ph.D., portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio respectively, as they attempt to warn the world of impending danger from a comet heading toward Earth in a “mass extinction event.” Produced in 2021, this Netflix original brings several high-profile thespians straight into the living rooms of viewers.

Though the film was filled with a star-studded cast, featuring Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande and others, it left me expecting more. Despite these extraordinary actors and actresses, the humor falls flat. “Don’t Look Up” attempts to write a storyline that entices viewers while keeping the heavy subject matter humorous. The first goal of the film, enticing the audience, was accomplished — I was eager to see what would happen next with the story. Meanwhile, it failed to accomplish its second goal of adding comedic relief. Though the film was good overall, no humorous moments stood out as memorable.

Keenan reflects on the elements of “Don’t Look Up” that were not effective. (Robert S. Donovan)

Though the sentiment “it’s funny because it’s true” works sometimes, McKay was unable to pull it off here. The events of the film were shockingly similar to trends actually seen within politicized topics. Climate change, pandemic response and other life-threatening situations have been pushed to the wayside and politicized, especially for large companies or powerful people to make more money.

Midway through the movie, I began trying to piece together things this movie could have been written about. My first assumption was the COVID-19 pandemic, with characters arguing if the incoming meteor was real and the whole event becoming politicized. Despite scientific evidence that the meteor would destroy the earth, citizens and government officials laughed in the face of catastrophe. To save a quick buck, the response was eventually privatized; a worldwide telephone company received the contract to try to destroy the asteroid. Instead of blowing it up and making the world safe simply, the company decided to try to extract expensive and rare materials from the astral body, eventually failing to do so. 

Despite not being the best comedy in the world, “Don’t Look Up” represents a realistic commentary on the monetization of a politicized worldwide catastrophe. Check out the film if you have a Netflix subscription, a few hours to kill and an interest in political commentaries on capitalism’s impact on ecological policy. I’m glad I watched it, but did not leave my couch wanting more after the credits rolled.

Aiden Keenan is a senior at John Carroll University and is the photographer editor for The Carroll News. He can be reached through email at [email protected] or on Twitter @AidenJKeenan.