Sunday, September 1, 2013

Four Couples Brunch At The Apocalypse When It’s A Disaster!

The Good: Very funny, Good character development, Decent acting, Realistic
The Bad: Packs in a bit much for ninety minutes.
The Basics: It’s A Disaster! is anything but; it’s a funny, clever and well-developed comedy well worth watching!

The Rapture is easy pickings for comedy. The concept of a structured Apocalypse that will follow the literal words of a dream from a man thousands of years ago (read closely, Fundamentalists: Revelation is a book written as a record of John’s dream, not a direct divine interaction) is ripe for picking apart by those with a smart, comedic mind. Hell, the writers who pick apart Revelation don’t even have to be smart. In the last year, Revelation has been the subject of the comedic films Rapture-Palooza (reviewed here!) and This Is The End (reviewed here!). The latest I have encountered is the smaller-budget film It’s A Disaster!. It’s A Disaster! might well be the best of the bunch; it is more subtle, rewatchable, and keeps a focus strongly on the characters in the film as opposed to the plot conceit that it employs.

It’s A Disaster! is a realistic interpretation of the Apocalypse and its cleverness works because it keeps the focus tightly on the characters who would stand at the outside of the cataclysmic event. The focus of the film are normal people who hear about a major biological attack ten miles away and find themselves waiting for death and pain. The film is subtle, realistically paced and evolves exceptionally well, doing a lot of credit to independent films. Like most independent movies, It’s A Disaster! trades on substance over star power. In fact, the celeb list is pretty much limited to David Cross, Julia Stiles and America Ferrera, with the rest of the cast fleshed out by people I did not recognize at all.

Four couples converge upon the Mandrake house for their Sunday brunch. Glen Randolph is meeting Tracy Scott’s friends for the first time. Tracy has a history of dating crazy men, but she thinks she has found a good guy with Glen. Tracy’s friends include Hedy (a schoolteacher) and Shane (who is obsessed with getting a comic book off eBay), Lexi (who is high on coke) and Buck (who might be an absolute idiot), and Emma and Pete (who are hosting the brunch and who are avoiding telling their friends of their impending divorce). While Pete breaks the ice with Glen, Buck becomes obsessed with the football game and Shane continues to try to get his smartphone’s internet connection to work. When the internet connection is lost and the power goes out, Pete assumes Emma did not pay the bill and their divorce is revealed.

At that time, their neighbor Hal reveals that a dirty bomb was set off in the city nearby and they will all die without proper supplies. In the wake of that revelation, infidelities come out and plans are made to survive the attack. Shane is paranoid about who might have attacked, Emma reveals that she and Buck had an affair after Lexi inadvertently lets slip that she had a fling with Pete. As the day progresses, Tracy proves she has what it takes to survive, Hedy goes into shock and Glen is outed as just as crazy as some of Tracy’s prior boyfriends.

It’s A Disaster! is funny largely in the lines, as opposed to the situation. Tracy uses the apocalypse as a way to finally get revenge on the perpetually-late Jenny and Gordon with dark and hilarious results. Glen continues to look for solace and solitude, but is interrupted by Lexi and Buck trying to score a threesome and Hedy who just comes in to pee while he sits in the tub. There is a great deal of humor in both the set-up and the execution. The humor starts out right away with Tracy revealing her pet peeve is not hearing the end to songs that are on the radio and Pete cornering Glen to have a real conversation about a hypothetical problem.

The performances in It’s A Disaster! are absolutely solid. Julia Stiles is good as Tracy, though her deliveries are virtually identical to those of Erica Christensen. Still, Stiles is solid. America Ferrera gives viewers something completely new as Hedy. Hedy is a chemistry teacher who takes the apocalypse hard and Ferrera presents a wide array of emotion without ever once hinting at being the same actress who led Ugly Betty for years. In fact, she is at her best when she plays Hedy with a strong lack of emotions that makes dead-eyed seem brilliant. For me, newcomers (to me) Erinn Hayes (Emma) and Blaise Miller (Pete) rock the movie with incredible on-screen chemistry and nuance that makes their characters wonderful.

David Cross surprised me with his performance as Glen. Not at all wacky, Cross plays Glen with an utter deadpan and a lack of foulmouth delivery that is unlike anything else I have seen him in.

Ultimately, It’s A Disaster! is funny, well-performed and original. It held up well over multiple viewings and that is more than can be said about most of the apocalyptic comedies made in the last year. That, if nothing else, makes it well worth watching and even adding to one’s permanent collection.

For other works with Erinn Hayes, please check out my reviews of:
The Watch
Parenthood - Season 1
Kitchen Confidential
Rumor Has It. . .


For other movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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