Review: It's a Disaster
PLOT: A group of friends (Rachel Boston, America Ferrera, Julia Stiles, David Cross, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Kevin M. Brennan, & Blaise Miller) meeting for their monthly couples brunch discover that a series of dirty bombs have been set off nearby, and that the world is spiraling towards Armageddon.
REVIEW: Apocalyptic fiction, long a hallmark of the sci-fi genre, has been making a big comeback lately. Despite the popularity of the genre, end of the world comedies were a relatively rare breed until recently. Following last year's SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, 2013 sees no less than three comedies focused on the apocalypse hitting movie screens before the year is out. IT'S A DISASTER- which played the film festival circuit in 2012- gets to be the first (with THIS IS THE END, and THE WORLD'S END following this summer/fall).
Imagine THE BIG CHILL crossed with RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, with a healthy dose of absurdest humor and you've got an idea of what IT'S A DISASTER is going for. The feature debut of LA-based comedy group The Vacationeers, despite it's low-budget, IT'S A DISASTER benefits enormously from a clever script by writer/director Todd Berger, and a terrific ensemble cast.
The film mostly centers of the group's lone outsider, school-teacher Glenn (David Cross), who's been invited to join the Sunday brunch by his new girlfriend, Tracy (Julia Stiles). Before there's any hint of the apocalypse, it's obvious that of the bunch, Cross is probably (?) the only sane one, as before he's there two minutes he's being confided in, plied with liquor, and possibly being lured into a threesome by one of the couples.
Cross is an old-hand at this type of humor, and the premise would have fit right in on MR. SHOW. As soon as it becomes clear that the couples only have a few hours to live, it's fun to watch them as they try to handle their situation, which nobody seems to think is actually all that dire- minus the one person in the group that seems to know anything about science (America Ferrera's AP chemistry teacher).
Most of the humor here comes out of the absurdity of the fact that, with the end of existence looming, this narcissistic group of friends is more concerned with who is sleeping with who, and gossip. This type of comedy always has to walk a fine line between absurdity and stupidity, but Berger mostly hits the right notes throughout- thanks to his clever dialogue, and ultra-game cast. Cross is great as always, in a relatively (for Cross) straight-laced part, while Julia Stiles shows a surprising flair for comedy. Other than Ferrera (who's also good) the rest of the cast is mostly unknown to me, although I assume they're part of The Vacationeers team, which would explain their natural chemistry, which makes the idea that this group has known each other for years easy to swallow. Fitting in with the impending rapture is the soundtrack, which is almost exclusively comprised of ultra-heavy classical selections like the 1812 Overture, Ave Maria, and Moonlight Sonata.
The movie could have easily run out of steam had Berger spent too much time establishing the pandemonium happening outside the home the friends are visiting, and in this way the tiny budget is probably a blessing in disguise. By confining the film to one location, the film stays focused on the increasingly bizarre group dynamic. If IT'S A DISASTER had gone to broad, it might not work as well as it does, but by adopting a lower-key brand of comedy- with the laughs coming from the absurdity of the situation and the never-ending bickering of a group that was already dysfunctional to start with- the film really works. It's nice bit of indie comedy, and a solid debut for The Vacationeers, which seems like a film collective that should be well-worth keeping an eye on in the future. If you like your comedy ultra-black, this is worth checking-out.