Now we have an all-star movie to graphically illustrate the critical life-skill principle that bias makes you stupid. It is “Don’t Look Up,” the creation of once-clever writer-director Adam McKay, who was responsible for some of the funnier Will Farrell movies before he decided that woke politics was his destiny. He recruited a glittering list of outspoken Hollywood progressives (Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, etc.) to mouth the script of his insufferably smug satirical allegory about “climate change denial.” Did anyone involved with this movie actually think anything in it was funny? I find that difficult to believe. It is so obvious from the start that we are in for a politically motivated rant by people who just aren’t anywhere near as smart as they think they are, including McKay.
The tell is that the main character is played by DiCaprio, is one of Tinseltown’s most prominent “We’re all going to die!” climate change hysterics, so you know what’s coming from the second you realize what he’s doing. See, Leonardo plays a scientist who figures out (with a crucial assist from graduate student Lawrence) that a big comet is hurtling toward a direct collision with the Earth, and that all life will be wiped out as a result. The certainty is 100%, and there is a little more than six months before it’s dinosaur time for the human race. Aha! The actor is joining McKay to make an analogy between an unequivocal existential threat, the familiar “huge space object is about to destroy the planet’ plot behind blockbuster films like “Sudden Impact” and “Armageddon,” and the materially different problem of global warming, which whatever happens is definitely not going to destroy life on Earth or human civilization. It is also a theoretical threat far, far from “100% certainty,” though people like McKay won’t accept that, and believe anyone who does is a moron determined to kill us all.
So the film’s premise is intentionally dishonest (or stunningly ignorant), designed to scare anyone who is foolish enough to buy its conceit, or produce knowing head nods from the woke zombies who don’t know anything about climate science but really like the messengers (who also don’t know much) who spout the doomsday scenario. Smug is never funny, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more smug movie in my life. Moreover, smug without justification is nauseating, and that’s what you get throughout the entire movie.
Some of the blurbs hyping the film have the audacity to compare it favorably with “Dr. Strangelove…,” which I would say is eequivilent to ranking “Muscle Beach Party” with “The Searchers.” Kubrick’s classic was funny and alarming because it showed recognizable types, exaggerated comically but not absurdly, making bad decisions through recognizably human instincts, culminating in disaster. In “Don’t Look Up,” to site on of dozens of examples, DiCaprio and Lawrence go on a “Fox and Friends” style happy talk news show (the female co-host is Fox News blonde) where they are limited to a handful of minutes to explain their cataclysmic discovery, and the fatuous hosts continue to joke, giggle and go off on tangents without focusing on the topic at hand: the end of the world. McKay’s message, of course, is that Fox News is journalism by morons for morons. (CNN thinks “Don’t Look Up” is terrific.) Later, we hear about a poll in which over 20% of the respondents say they don’t believe there is a comet, though there are photographs. Isn’t that exactly like the conservatives who don’t believe human beings are causing climate change? OK, similar? Sort of the same thing? No, no, and no.
Wrote McKay this week on his Twitter feed, “Loving all the heated debate about our movie. But if you don’t have at least a small ember of anxiety about the climate collapsing (or the US teetering) I’m not sure Don’t Look Up makes any sense. It’s like a robot viewing a love story. “WHy ArE thEir FacEs so cLoSe ToGether?”
Oh yes, about the “U.S. teetering”: “Don’t Look Up” is also a “Trump will destroy democracy and the world!” movie. Streep, at her lazy worst, plays a stunningly stupid POTUS completely focused on holding power and unable to grasp the importance of the information Lawrence and DiCaprio bring her. Her son (Hill) is the snotty, unqualified Chief of Staff (Get it?) and the President is preoccupied with a scandal because she has nominated for the Supreme Court a non-lawyer who, reporters just discovered, engaged in Anthony Weiner-style sex conduct. Yeah, that’s exactly like what Trump did by nominating Brett Kavanagh. Hearing the two scientists explain how an extinction event is certain absent some kind of intervention, the President schedules an event to take place in seven months. Once polling shows that she can raise her approval rating by saving the world, Streep recruits an old macho retired astronaut to lead the rescue effort, and he spouts sexist and bigoted wise cracks as he’s excused because “he’s from another generation.”
It’s hilarious! Well, it’s hilarious if you’re Trump Deranged, in the same way 10-year-olds find playground bullies beating up the Jewish kid hilarious. The whole film is like that: the idea is to insult, stereotype and savage all the people who disagree with the wise and superior ones making the film. Even some of the film critics inclined to approve of McKay’s obsession are acknowledging that this approach isn’t particularly funny. “In the end, McKay isn’t doing much more in this movie than yelling at us, but then, we do deserve it,” says New York Times critic Manohla Dargis. We deserve a smug, unfunny, hysterical and partisan satire! Concludes NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben, “…it is not that I’m criticizing the impulse to make a cathartic scream-cry of a movie about climate change because plenty of people feel that way, and I can’t blame them.”
Rolling Stone’s critic, the aptly named David Fear, nailed it, however, writing:
“Don’t Look Up” is a blunt instrument in lieu of a sharp razor, and while McKay may believe that we’re long past subtlety, it doesn’t mean that one man’s wake-up-sheeple howl into the abyss is funny, or insightful, or even watchable. It’s a disaster movie in more ways than one. Should you indeed look up, you may be surprised to find one A-list bomb of a movie, all inchoate rage and flailing limbs, falling right on top of you.
Predictably McKay, along with David Sirota, the former Bernie Sanders speechwriter who co-wrote the story, and progressive pundits are calling anyone who criticizes the movie “climate change deniers.” This is emblematic of why the movie is almost as useful as it is lousy. One could hardly find a more throbbingly neon piece of evidence to show how hateful, single-minded, obsessed, and intolerant of any dissent these people are—“these people” being the McKays, DiCaprios, Streeps, and anyone who applauds this movie. They aren’t interested in persuading, or even entertaining. They want to vilify, denigrate, intimidate and, ultimately punish their opposition, who happen to be their fellow citizens.
Who is the real existential threat to democracy?