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Death to 2020 Movie 2020 Review Poster Trailer Online
Directors: Al Campbell, Alice Mathias
Writers: Charlie Brooker, Annabel Jones
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow
As narrator Laurence Fishburne takes us through all of the events of this year we’d like to forget — starting with the Australian wildfires and Trump’s impeachment trial, through the pandemic, George Floyd, Brexit, the 2020 election, and even mentioning the beginning of the COVID vaccine rollout. The “experts” that are interviewed give various levels of absurd answers about how they reacted to the events or what their opinions of the events were.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Dash Brakcet, a newspaper reporter that answers questions much like Sam Jackson might; Hugh Grant plays Tennyson Foss, a historian that seems to confuse events on Game Of Thrones with actual history; Lisa Kudrow plays Jeanetta Grace Susan, a “non-official spokesperson” who basically denies anything resembling the truth.
Kumail Nanjiani plays Bark Multiverse, a selfish tech CEO that built a mountain bunker for himself and got absurdly wealthier during the pandemic; Samson Kayo is Pyrex Flask, a scientist whose real expert answers are made interesting by the filmmakers with random footage like a rhino taking a dump; Cristin Milioti is Kathy Flowers, a “self-described regular soccer mom” who ascribes to every conspiracy theory that plops onto her Facebook feed.
Leslie Jones is Dr. Maggie Gravel, a sociologist who thinks that pretty much everyone who’s not her is an imbecile; Joe Keery is Duke Goolies, who somehow made gobs of money doing YouTube videos where he dumbly reacts to news stories; Diane Morgan is Gemma Nerrick, literally one of the five most average people on the planet; finally, Tracey Ullman plays Queen Elizabeth II, who’s so annoyed over Harry and Meghan’s leaving the royal family that she doesn’t even want to speak their names.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Cross an ABC year-in-review show, where they interview real comedians and experts, with an Office-style mockumentary, and you have the oddity that’s Death To 2020.
Performance Worth Watching: Lisa Kudrow and Cristian Milioti put in the best performances of their respective fake “experts”. Milioti’s timing was spot on as she creepily nailed the “Karen”-type of person who thinks she isn’t a racist conspiracy nut, even though she is. We especially liked when she mouthed the word “Black” instead of describing someone as a Black person. Kudrow’s denials of reality were scripted to be a bit over the top, but she delivered those lines in the haughty way Kudrow has been doing at least since The Comeback.
Memorable Dialogue: Nothing really stuck out, and that’s one of the major problems with the special. See below.
Our Take: Making fun of one of the most horrible years in any of our memories is a tough thing for anyone to tackle, which is why we should give Brooker and Jones a pass for whiffing on Death To 2020. But since we get paid to write more than that, we’ll tell you why the pair, usually pretty reliable in the satire department, struck out.
We’re at the end of a year that saw massive natural disasters that have been egged on by climate change, a pandemic that has killed 1.75 million people worldwide and almost 333,000 people in the United States, protests that were generated by a horrific video of a Black man dying under the knee of a White cop, a presidency that continues to threaten the very idea of democracy, and election so fraught that one of the most insider candidates we’ve seen in decades is considered a savior by half the country, with the other half of the country feeling that their candidate still won because of nonexistent fraud.
Are you laughing yet? Didn’t think so. The format of Death To 2020 doesn’t allow for much in the way of subtlety, considering Brooker and Jones needed to summarize the year in 70 minutes. This means they had to take the broad stroke approach with the narration and experts. That approach generated a chuckle or three along the way, but nothing that was laugh-out-loud funny; the special didn’t say anything new that we haven’t seen satirized with more detail and skill on SNL and the various late night shows.
And that’s our big issue with Death To 2020; it feels more like a cross between a Stephen Colbert monologue and an SNL sketch gone wrong than something that’s original or memorable. The cast is game — in addition to Milioti and Kudrow, Leslie Jones and Samson Kayo also seem to be invested in their characters — but there’s just not enough funny material for their performances to overcome the special’s structural problems.
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