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Don't Look Up First Reviews: Armageddon With a Brain

Critics say Adam McKay's latest satire is a bit heavy-handed and hits too close to home, but it succeeds on the strength of its reliable A-list cast and some genuinely funny gags.

by | December 8, 2021 | Comments

From Adam McKay, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who gave us Anchorman and The Big Short, comes an all-star ensemble disaster flick with a satirical bent. Don’t Look Up follows a pair of scientists (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) who discover an enormous comet heading towards Earth but can’t convince enough of the planet to care.

According to the first reviews, the movie itself is a near miss, but a good enough hit in the laughs and casting departments, particularly when it comes to Meryl Streep as the President of the United States. Even many of the negative takes offer praises for the performances and much of McKay’s jokes, though everyone agrees the situation of the comedy is too familiar right now.

Here’s what critics are saying about Don’t Look Up:


Is Don’t Look Up essential viewing?

This is the star-studded, scabrous, scathing political and social satire the world needs right now. – James Croot, stuff.co.nz

A popcorn movie about climate change that will hopefully have an impact like the one the characters are warning everyone about. – Germain Lussier, io9.com

Don’t Look Up is one of the best pictures this year. – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Wasted time isn’t merely the function of McKay’s ultra-depressing farce, it’s also the central focus of a film that begs viewers to do something better with the time they have left. – David Ehrlich, IndieWire


Does it hit too close to home?

It is extremely believable that if this same situation occurred, and it could, the results would be the same. And that is scary. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Don’t Look Up has the misfortune of being too prophetic. – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

The commentary is disturbingly relevant but so funny that the audience can still enjoy watching it. – Nicole Ackman, Your Money Geek


Meryl Streep in Don't Look Up

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

Will Adam McKay fans enjoy it?

Don’t Look Up is, by far, the strongest, most searing piece of cinema writer/director Adam McKay has put before us. – Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

I would easily consider Don’t Look Up to be my favorite of McKay’s films. – Nicole Ackman, Your Money Geek

Adam McKay’s satire about our current facts-averse political divide and incompetent government is his best yet. – Nathaniel Rogers, The Film Experience

McKay detractors won’t be converted, but fans of his flicks are in for another smart and vicious treat. – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar


How does it compare to other disaster movies?

Don’t Look Up is a better movie than those of that ilk. – Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

The film is the ultimate disaster movie, timely in its subject matter and ambitious in its execution. – Mae Abdulbaki, Screen Rant

Don’t Look Up is essentially Deep Impact played for yuks, Armageddon if it had a brain. – Ian Freer, Empire Magazine

As executed, Don’t Look Up plays like the leftie answer to Armageddon. – Peter Debruge, Variety


Does it work as satire?

In his political wheelhouse, McKay’s satire feels both too funny to be true and spot-on. – Ian Freer, Empire Magazine

Don’t Look Up is likely to go down as this generation’s Dr. Strangelove. – James Croot, stuff.co.nz

Dr. Strangelove it ain’t. – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

It feels less like satire and more like an unfortunate prediction for how America would handle a situation like this. – Nicole Ackman, Your Money Geek


Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry in Don't Look Up

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

How funny is it?

Laugh out loud hysterical. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Don’t Look Up might be the funniest movie of 2021. – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

Genuinely much funnier than McKay’s other prestige films, if chiefly due to excellent comedic performances. – Ethan Vestby, The Film Stage

The film is often very amusing – perhaps proving that McKay is still at his best as a director of straightforward comedy. – Peter Cremona, Radio Times

Never hilarious. It’s simply consistently amusing. – Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation


Will you feel other things as you watch it?

I was in a mixture of shock and horror until I was, ultimately, in tears. – Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

This McKay film is more than its punchline. There’s real heart here. – Robert Daniels, Inverse

Don’t Look Up sure takes you on an emotional journey. – Andrew Webster, The Verge

McKay can’t decide whether he wants to amuse or upset us. – Peter Debruge, Variety


Leonardo DiCaprio in Don't Look Up

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

How is Leonardo DiCaprio?

It’s not the most impressive work he’s ever done, but it’s a reminder that he can excel in a role that downplays his movie-star charisma. – Nicole Ackman, Your Money Geek

Another reminder that he ought to do more comedies. – Nathaniel Rogers, The Film Experience

It’s an Oscar-worthy performance for DiCaprio! – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

DiCaprio seemingly should have a good shot [at] Best Actor. – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar


What about the rest of the ensemble cast?

This movie is stacked with talent… everyone brings it. – Andrew Webster, The Verge

One of the best ensemble casts ever… on the same level as It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

There’s not a bad performance in the movie, and it really proves that Adam McKay is one of the better actors’ directors working today. – Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation

If there were Oscars given for casting (sort it, Academy), Francine Maisler would be a shoo-in for the 2022 gong. – Ian Freer, Empire Magazine


Meryl Streep and Mark Rylance in Don't Look Up

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

Are there any standouts?

Streep is a riot as a clueless President, while [Jonah] Hill steals every scene he is in. – Pete Hammond, Deadline

The MVP though is Mark Rylance…a transformative performance that sees Rylance steal every scene he’s in, and it’s a testament to him that however weird it gets, it still feels horrifyingly authentic. – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

The cast is nothing short of sensational, with Mark Rylance, as a Steve Jobs-like tech genius who plans to profit from the comet, particularly brilliant. – James Mottram, South China Morning Post

Hopefully this will be the first of many film collaborations for Streep and Rylance, because they’re a scrumptious combo. – Charlotte O’Sullivan, London Evening Standard

Melanie Lynskey is low-key brilliant.David Ehrlich, IndieWire


Does it go on a bit too long?

It stretches on perhaps a little too long — the movie clocks in at nearly two and a half hours — but the journey Don’t Look Up takes viewers on is mesmerizing. – Andrew Webster, The Verge

While the middle of the film drags a bit, it is able to keep the audience engaged with its fast-paced dialogue and editing. – Nicole Ackman, Your Money Geek

This ensemble cast is so good at what they do, that they propel the story forward and keep the pacing going so that it never really drags. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky


Will you want to see it more than once?

Don’t Look Up is a film that only improves with each viewing. I’ve seen it twice now and it gets better each time. – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies


Nightmare Alley is in theaters on December 10, 2021 and streaming on Netflix on December 24, 2021.

Thumbnail image by Niko Tavernise/Netflix

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