It’s a Disaster (2013)
Quite the fitting title at times.
It’s a Disaster is about a group of friends who all get together for couples brunch on one fateful Sunday. Some of them are just dating, some of them are married and some are on the verge of divorce. As the morning progresses, things start coming to head, and just as the bubble’s about to burst, the neighbor drops by in his HazMat suit to borrow some batteries. Turns out, some dirty bombs got dropped on nearby San Fran and the lethal gases are making their way over to the neighborhood. Suddenly faced with their fleeting mortality, the friends hole up and try figure out what to do with their final hours.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like we’ve got a fair number of apocalypse comedies on the horizon this year. I don’t really know why that is, perhaps there’s a memo going around. Whatever the reason, this struck me as different. As much as I’m looking forward to This is the End and The World’s End in particular, I can’t help but feel like they sound and look awfully similar in a lot of ways. A bunch of friends realize that the world’s on borrowed time, so they hit the streets where chaos and hilarity ensue. The difference here is that, 1) the budget’s a whole lot smaller, and 2) the scale’s a whole lot smaller.
It’s kinda like No Exit starring David Cross, and that in itself is a fine way to start. Plus, if I had to choose the last place I’d want to be when the world came to an end, a couples brunch with some fake-ass people would be awfully high up on the list. In theory, it’s quite inspired, but in practice, therein lies the strength and weakness of this movie: having to spend 90 minutes with some fake-ass people during couples brunch.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble trying to pinpoint what it was about these people that drove me so-effing-nuts for roughly two-thirds of this movie’s duration, and the resolution I’ve come to is that they aren’t real people to begin with. Their personalities are forced, their interactions are forced, and their dialogue is so forced that they might as well have been choking on it. Whether it’s one guy who makes Dwight Schrute seem like a man of reason or one girl who acts like the world is a goddamn rave, they are caricatures, they are ridiculous, and they are infuriating to be around. Don’t get me wrong, the intentions are good and I can see how it could have worked, much in the same way that these other apocalypse comedies are (hopefully) going to work. But thanks to a continually irritating script that made for even more irritating characters, all I wanted was to break through that fourth wall, brick some windows and let that nerve gas work its magic.
Never a good sign, and it’s really too bad.
Then again, maybe it’s just me, maybe this just ain’t my brand of humor. To me, it felt more like Broadway humor than movie humor, and with the exception of maybe Spamalot, Broadway humor has never done the trick. One can only handle so many running gags driven by miscommunication and wacky situations before his interest wanes to nonexistence. Remember that painful scene in Lucky Number Slevin where Josh Hartnett and Bubba Blue start arguing over grammar and whatnot? That’s what I’m talking about, and that’s not my thing. ‘Cause let me tell ya’, folks, by the time this script makes its tenth joke about the right way to pronounce “duct tape,” the reckoning couldn’t show up fast enough.
However, there are two silver linings to this sorry situation, the first of which is David Cross.
Now, the thing that sets David’s character apart is that he’s a newcomer to the crowd. This is his third date with Julia Stiles’ character (what the hell has she been up to lately?) and he’s just trying to make a good impression by being his normal self. As a result, he winds up being the only believable one of the bunch, the only one who isn’t chewing up the scenery like a dog to peanut butter. Not only that, but he’s just operating on a whole ‘nother level when it comes to comedic timing and delivery, so much so that whenever he’s on screen the script and his co-stars all noticeably benefit from his presence. Man, the perks of casting David Cross here are so numerous that I can’t help but wonder why he wasn’t in the spotlight from start to finish? Thanks to him, we are blessed with a much-needed respite from the intolerable monotony of watching miserable white people act like miserable white people, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
The other silver lining was actually quite surprising, and one that has me torn over whether this deserves a higher Verdict.
Despite how unpleasant I found the first two Acts of this picture, the final Act is quite good. Really quite good, actually. Whereas the first hour is basically driven by a shit sense of humor and these sucky characters being their sucky selves, the last half-hour gets to the meat of the script that I’d been waiting to be served from the get-go. Eventually, the characters stop wallowing in their imminent demise and start taking stock of those around them, and everything just gets better.
I’m not kidding, the shift in overall quality from the first hour to the last half-hour is actually mind-boggling in its disparity, but damn if it isn’t a welcome shift at that. For some reason, it decides to stop laying it on so heavy with the laughs and instead gives each of these caricatures time to mellow out, develop and blossom into some bonafide human beings that I could sympathize with, even care about. Suddenly, everyone’s on the same page with David Cross in regards to both credibility and comedic chops. Suddenly, I was interested.
Granted, it was only a matter of time before the plot progressed from everyone freaking out to everyone making up, I just was not expecting it to make such a broad impact on so many other aspects in turn. Man, I don’t know what Todd Berger started smoking when he wrote the last 30 pages of this script, but that stuff worked like gangbusters right on through to the end credits. If only he had gotten hold of that ish sooner…
With all that being said, I do feel kinda bad for giving It’s a Disaster such a ho-hum Verdict. Even if I could have done without that first hour, that final Act is a keeper and I can’t help but appreciate such an indie take on the apocalypse. It’s also hard to knock a comedy like this because the issue isn’t that it’s not funny, it’s that I didn’t find it funny. I’ve seen Caddyshack 2, I know an unfunny movie when I see one. This is not one of those movies and I wouldn’t knock anyone if they found it to be a gosh darn knee-slapper. So on that note, take this subjective review for what it is and don’t let it deter you if you’re the least bit interested.
Because remember, dear readers, different strokes are for different folks.