IMDb Link: Death to 2020 (2020)
Directors: Al Campbell, Alice Mathias
Writers: Charlie Brooker, Annabel Jones, Tom Baker
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani
Synopsis: Take a look back at the mad glory of the year 2020 in this comedic retrospective.
If there is one thing I want to thank this mockumentary for highlighting, it is the reminder that Parasite won the Best Picture award at the start of 2020. When this film made jokes around the film industry, from the Oscars to the release of Tenet, the jokes landed. Not only did these jokes feel original in comparison to the majority of the film’s script, but it had fun with the subject matter. These are jokes that, yes I connect with because I am a film fan, but it is something that everyone can look back on and reflect on the year without all of the COVID-19 and political debates between it.
I do also want to give credit to the huge cast, most of which do a good job with the material that they are given. Whilst I will not list off the entire cast, I want to highlight a few stand-out performances. Lisa Kudrow is over-the-top, but in a way that I adore as a politician on Trump’s administration. Joe Keery is more subtle than most cast members as a barman/social media star but has some of the best moments in the film and feels natural despite the material given. Finally, Leslie Jones has some wonderful moments and, like Keery, feels natural with the material given to her.
Unfortunately, a lot of the material is just bad with this film. For jokes about 2020, from COVID-19 to Trump and Brexit, these jokes have all been done over and over again. There is also the issue that this is heavily targeted to British and American audiences, with all of the political and COVID-19 related jokes being linked to those two countries. It becomes hard to engage with the jokes when they are just exaggerated versions of jokes we have all been saying for the past year, presented in a way that doesn’t always land.
There are way too many characters in this mockumentary, and it loses focus quickly on what it wants to talk about. I could have easily gone without a few of these characters, who aren’t even that funny. Whilst there are one or two very targeted jokes about the Royal Family that made me giggle, the presentation of the Queen in this was way too exaggerated and takes you out of the film completely. The same can be said about the soccer mom, played by Cristin Milioti who does embrace the over-the-top nature of her character, but something that I just did not see the humour in.
2020 is such a big topic to handle in what is only 70 minutes long, there are longer episodes of Black Mirror that tell shorter yet more concise stories. I wish Charlie Brooker approached this perhaps in a similar way, as trying to handle massive subjects such as politics, COVID-19, general entertainment, and other major news headlines needs more time to fully develop, instead of just skimming the basics and cracking jokes with no context.
I also want to ask the question if it is too soon to have these films that poke fun at the year itself. There have already been fictional pandemic movies based on COVID-19 made and ready to release, and they all are out of touch and are trying to profit off of a pandemic that has killed millions. Whilst I think it stays away from particularly making jokes about the pandemic itself and the impact that had, there are moments where this mockumentary tries to make light of the Black Lives Matter movement for example that can land the wrong way.
This was the first film that I saw in 2021, hoping that I would be able to simply laugh away the end of 2020. It does have some good laughs in there, and it was some wonderful performances as well. However, I simply do not think it is time – or that there will be a time – when we can laugh at COVID-19 jokes, especially when right now the situation is getting worse. We may be in 2021 now, but it is not time to simply wish death upon 2020 whilst the current situation has not changed.
Death to 2020 is now available to watch on Netflix.