‘Don’t Look Up’ Movie Review: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence Find Enough Chuckle-Humor in Climate Crisis Satire

Don’t Look Up is an exceedingly entertaining guilty pleasure movie with a message at its core. Writer/director Adam McKay enlists a huge ensemble cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in his social commentary piece on the climate crisis. Don’t Look Up bites off a bit more than it can chew, but there’s a certain thrill to its massive scope and all-over-the-place narrative.

‘Don’t Look Up’ is based on real events that haven’t happened … yet

'Don't Look Up' review Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky and Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy stressed out in front of monitors while on speaker phone
L-R: Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky and Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy | Nico Tavernise/Netflix

Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) is a Ph.D. candidate working under Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) when she discovers a comet. The initial excitement transforms into pure panic as they figure out that it’s on a direct trajectory for Earth. They’re low-level astronomers who are quickly overwhelmed with the task of telling President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son and Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill). However, their pleas fall on deaf ears.

The astronomers estimate that the comet is set to hit Earth in 6 months and 14 days. They set on a media tour to warn the world of the comet. However, their media appearances further complicate things, as audiences are more concerned with pop star Riley Bina’s (Ariana Grande) breakup with DJ Chello (Kid Cudi) than the threat of a comet ending the world.

Adam McKay blends comedy and drama into his climate crisis satire

McKay stuffs as many celebrities as he can into Don’t Look Up, but there’s a point to it. His screenplay is tackling the climate crisis within the context of the social media age. McKay’s decision to bring on a group of A-listers is pure self-deprecation. Don’t Look Up is a satire on the scientific debate that turned political, but it isn’t afraid to make fun of itself.

Randall and Kate are opposites in many ways, but they often feel more like passive characters where they’re magnets for the story’s whirlwind of insanity. They encounter a Trump-inspired president and her son who has no business in the position he has and television hosts Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry), who are even more so caricatures of news reporters who enjoy style over substance. The media reacts to Randall and Kate in polarizing ways, speaking on sexism in media.

Don’t Look Up touches on the topic of science getting politicized. McKay’s film is a climate crisis satire, but it also fits like a glove on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic conversation. Each character appears to represent different segments of the population in such debates, making for a very crowded albeit entertaining roller coaster ride.

‘Don’t Look Up’ is consistently entertaining

'Don't Look Up' review Cate Blanchett as Brie Evantee, Tyler Perry as Jack Bremmer, Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy, and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky sitting at a news desk with mugs in front of them
L-R: Cate Blanchett as Brie Evantee, Tyler Perry as Jack Bremmer, Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy, and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky | Nico Tavernise/Netflix

Don’t Look Up will draw a lot of interest thanks to its massive and impressive cast. DiCaprio is a particular standout, as he takes on the entire physicality of the character. However, Lawrence, Streep, and Hill have the best dynamic in the film, although the improv is a bit too chaotic. The film has a significant tonal shift that doesn’t entirely work, especially as the jokes continually dwindle. Regardless, there isn’t a single dull moment.

Don’t Look Up is very much a film of its time. It shows a disgusting side of humanity, especially as the divisive nature of politics is injected into the conversation. McKay’s screenplay occasionally makes you question whether you want the comet to actually hit the planet. However, the film always provides enough glimpses into the good of humanity to remind the audience that humanity might be worth fighting for.

McKay’s newest film is never laugh-out-loud funny and it goes for a lot of obvious satirical points. Fortunately, it has enough chuckle-worthy humor. Its 138-minute runtime moves quickly as Don’t Look Up doesn’t stop to take a breath. The climate crisis is a very tricky subject to capture in a focused narrative. McKay’s comedic notes are a bit too predictable and his drama doesn’t always stick its landing, but it’s immensely entertaining nonetheless.

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