Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Don't Look UP

A fun Netflix time enjoying expert satirist Adam McKay's take on a variety of our prominent deniers.

Don't Look Up

If you’re an anthropologist, pop culturist, or ordinary film critic like me, there’s something to smile about in the satire, Don’t Look Up. A comet is hurtling toward earth, with six months before impact. Low-level astronomers Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and doctoral candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovered the menace and now try to convince everyone the danger is real.

The heart of director-writer Adam McKay’s spoof is the world’s unwillingness to accept the scientific facts. Right off you can supply the figurative touchstone of COVID 19, a fact that groups like anti-vaxers and alt-righters deny despite the stats and scientific facts. Of the myriad other deniers, the fraudulent presidential election and climate-changing deniers come immediately to mind. And those alt-fact supporters head the pack.

McKay is right at home in satire with such successes as Talladega Nights (NASCAR drivers), Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling teaching about fiscal disaster in The Big Short, and silly anchormen in Anchorman.  Maybe just a little too at home, for the satirical hits in Don’t Look Up are too many to look at in depth.

Still, he hits the target with President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), whose blond barrel curls are exceeded in goofiness by the photo of

her and Steven Seagal on the oval desk. Mark Rylance’s smarmy tech CEO could be Mark or Elon, take your pick—his self-serving humanism is known to all.  Rylance’s inspiring “businessman” is perhaps the best satirical character as he takes over the earth-saving project and thereby dooms it to failure.

McKay does well alluding to the corrupt denials in almost every part of planetary life. When Dr. Mindy goes on national TV to decry the denials and Kate considers that the anchors and POTUS care only about their Q ratings, Howard Beal’s “had enough” lurks in the memory of those who like trenchant satire of the media. That Dr. Mindy is also committing adultery with one of the hosts, Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett), adds plenty of grist for McKay’s mill.

The racist pilot of the rescue rocket, Benedict Drask (Ron Perlman), meant to obliterate the comet, evokes memories of Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove and every other jingoist redneck you have ever seen.

Actually, there are many other examples like Jonah Hill’s Trumpian chief of staff—just too many for my typically minimalist reviews. Yet, that may be my point—too many spot-on satires to be easily digested in one sitting. An embarrassment of riches, so to speak. Enjoy a Netflix evening cataloging our cultural failings.

Don’t look up

Director: Adam McKay (The Big Short)

Screenplay: McKay

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception), Jennifer Lawrence(X-Men: Dark Phoenix)

Run Time: 2h 18m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.