DON'T LOOK UP is a wildly successful Netflix original, and - like a plunging comet hurtling toward earth – it comes close to being devastatingly funny and profound. But the talented artists creating it are better than the scripted material, and it will endure as some intriguing near miss.
You may have heard that Meryl Streep plays the US president as a very dim and dark Trump-like figure, whose flunky son (Jonah Hill) is her chief of staff. When presented with scientific evidence that a comet that is 5K wide is hurtling through space, the government reaction seems clear to be a commentary on the previous administration's actions regarding Covid, embracing policies of denial and delay.
If that is not enough, the film skewers TV news, with insipid reporters who lie through their teeth and preen and play to get the highest ratings during a crisis. Need I mention that Leonardo DiCaprio screws the cougar-like anchor, abandoning his family, in an additional narrative layer.
Oh yes, there is also an honorable scientist – Jennifer Lawrence – whose discovery of the comet – now named in her honor, starts the whole complicated mess rolling. If that is not enough, add some religious commentary and post-credit scenes that hurtle us hundreds of years into the future.
Funny and intense, the material makes you think and wince. It is so familiar – perhaps too familiar – and comes ever so close to hitting it out of the park. Maybe one more rewrite or a little more discipline would have kept things tighter, shorter, and punchier.
Great political comedies are hard to create and sustain. Classics like 'Dr. Strangelove' (1954) and 'The Great Dictator (1940) set a very high bar that few have matched. DON'T LOOK UP is a near miss.