Leonardo DiCaprio has been an outspoken climate change awareness advocate for years, and now he’s bringing that message to the big screen. The Academy Award-winning actor is playing the lead in Adam McKay’s latest film, “Don’t Look Up,” which seeks to mock everyone who isn’t terrified of climate change.
Hollywood types mostly agree with the message that “Don’t Look Up” is pitching. Still, the plot and A-list cast weren’t enough to save overwrought messaging that feels tired, stale, and unnecessary. Even self-professed liberal film critics hated the movie for so many reasons.
DiCaprio plays an astronomer named Randall who, along with his colleague Kate (Jennifer Lawrence), discovers a huge comet that’s poised to destroy the Earth in six months. When they inform the president (Meryl Streep), she’s completely unconcerned and caught up with other petty problems. Most of the populace ignores the impending danger as well. The characters in the movie are thinly-veiled caricatures based on popular figures, with Streep acting as an obvious stand-in for former President Donald Trump.
McKay is no stranger to satirical films and is best known for his other titles including “The Big Short” and “Vice,” about the life of Dick Cheney. But “Don’t Look Up” is meant to be darker and more prescriptive — even if some film reviewers claim it fails on those fronts.
Film critic Chris Evangelista of SlashFilm said, “… [H]ere the filmmaker has stumbled too far from the path, and he can no longer see the forest for the trees. He’s created a smug, shrill, obvious satire that has nothing to say other than ‘Humanity is screwed.’”
After professing to be a liberal himself, the critic goes on to lament how the “climate change deniers” won’t watch it anyway, and the audience who will pay to see the film won’t get anything of substance out of it. He continues, saying “Don’t Look Up” is “an excuse for smug, self-righteous liberals to bask in how smart they are while everyone else is a dunce. This isn’t a movie with a message; it’s an excuse to point and laugh at the oblivious.”
Some publications were less harsh. The Verge called it “an emotional journey” that offers “a kind of desperate hope.” Meanwhile, Esquire took a vague approach, saying the movie is “impossible to review” and that the message, “for all its noble and worthwhile intentions, is doomed to failure.”
Despite the success or failure of “Don’t Look Up,” DiCaprio is committed to the cause.
The 47-year-old actor famously said “Climate change is real; it is happening now. It is the most urgent threat to our entire species,” during his 2016 Oscars acceptance speech. He also founded The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, an organization that raised more than $80 million for environmental projects.
“Don’t Look Up” premieres in theaters on December 10 and on Netflix on December 24.