Understandably alarmed, their findings quickly reach the White House, where the president (Meryl Streep, poorly served by the ridiculousness of her character) is too preoccupied with her endangered Supreme Court pick to focus on what Randall describes as an extinction-level event. After fruitless back and forth, she concludes that they’ll “sit tight and assess” the situation.
From there, “Don’t Look Up” is off to the races with a scathing indictment of everything about our media and political ecosystem, from the happy-talk news show (anchored by Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett, standing out as especially self-absorbed TV anchors) to websites preoccupied with traffic and social-media memes.
McKay and Sirota deliver a spot-on attack on how easily distracted people (especially in media) are, fixating on Kate’s hair and clothes and ignoring the substance of her message.
The attempts to make that point, however, careen wildly in different directions, from a tech billionaire (Mark Rylance, adopting a not-of-this-world accent) who sees opportunities to cash in on the comet’s natural resources to the president’s chief of staff (Jonah Hill), who can only see the threat in terms of how it might impact the midterm elections.
Still, “Don’t Look Up” keeps getting sidetracked, thanks in part to piling up celebrities in minor roles (witness Timothée Chalamet’s belated entrance for no particular reason) and pursuing subplots that drag out the tension on whether these flawed leaders will find the fortitude and sobriety to take action.
As was clearly its intention, “Don’t Look Up” uses satire to spur a conversation about potentially ignoring a crisis until it’s too late. It’s a sobering message, but one that comes barreling toward us through the lens of an uneven movie.
“Don’t Look Up” premieres Dec. 10 in select theaters and Dec. 24 on Netflix. It’s rated R.