How ‘Don’t Look Up’ Inadvertently Remade A ‘90s Cult Comedy
(This article contains SPOILERS for Don’t Look Up.) Best Picture nominee Don’t Look Up tells the story of two scientists warning the government against an imminent, apocalyptic threat, only to be ignored and ridiculed, in what we’re pretty sure was all an allegory for … relationship problems? The Kennedy assassination? It’s unclear. At any rate, if the film felt at all familiar, there might be a good reason for that; it follows many of the same story beats as the highly underrated ‘90s comedy Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy – which, tragically, was not nominated for a single goddamn Oscar.
Adam McKay’s star-studded satire begins much like the only feature film made by the beloved Canadian sketch comedy troupe, with a gang of nerdy scientists making a world-changing discovery -- a giant asteroid heading straight for Earth and a new happiness drug, respectively.
The bespectacled head scientist then nervously presents their findings to the president (of the United States in Don’t Look Up and a pharmaceutical company in Brain Candy).
And also the president’s sniveling suck-up right-hand man.
Both scientists soon end up on TV shows giving awkward interviews to vapid talk show hosts about their discovery –
– and become celebrities, as a result, betraying their professional ethics and alienating their colleagues, as they go along with an anti-scientific plan while reaping the benefits of fame.
But at least their newfound stardom leads to offscreen sex.
Meanwhile, one of the audience’s touchstones for the culture at large is a famous musician -- a Danzig-esque rocker and Ariana Grande-esque pop star played by … Ariana Grande (we’re guessing Danzig turned down any requests to play himself).
And the lead scientist eventually learns that he was wrong to go down this path, and align himself with a corrupt president after their plan becomes clear; in Don’t Look Up the president turns to a corporation to save Earth, and in Brain Candy, the company has been burying reports that their wonder drug has been putting users in comas. The scientist then rejects the president and tries to warn the world about what’s really going on.
In the end, the scientist eventually reconciles with their colleagues – which in Don’t Look Up is marred only by the impending total destruction of the planet. But ultimately both stories have the same moral; it’s okay to be sad sometimes. Brain Candy is about the perils of medicating people who aren’t clinically depressed because regular doses of sadness are a normal component of human life. And Don’t Look Up is ultimately about how we need to engage with unpleasant truths, even if that news might bum us out because it’s all an allegory for … the Bible?
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Top Image: Netflix/Paramount Pictures