Death to 2020 kicks off with a not-so-original meta-joke. Samuel L Jackson as journalist Dash Bracket is getting ready for an interview and he goes, “Don’t be filming this for one of those casual introductory shots, please.” And when the interviewer reveals the whole purpose of the interview is to relive the events of 2020, Samuel L Jackson goes, “Why the f*** do you want to do that?” Again, you saw that line coming from miles.
That’s how most of Death to 2020 turns out to be. With only a few sporadic laughs, the mockumentary from Black Mirror creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones is a missed opportunity to make us laugh at one of the most morbid years of modern history.
Despite having a huge star cast that includes heavyweights like Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Leslie Jones, and Laurence Fishburne (narrator), Death to 2020 fails to evoke a sense of novelty. Even the film’s structure, which shuffles between pretend experts, is insipid. The limited creativity is spent on coming up with qualifiers for these talking heads. We have Cristin Milioti as Kathy Flowers, a self-described soccer mom, Kudrow as Jeanetta Grace Susan, a non-official conservative spokesperson, and Diane Morgan as Gemma Nerrick, an average citizen. But like me, if you find these qualifiers to be bland, then there is very little for you to salvage from Death to 2020.
What starts off as a light-hearted account of the horrors of 2020, soon descends down to an all-out social commentary on the American election -- Trump’s blunders, and nothing else. There are very few places where I found myself laughing with Death to 2020 like the end-credit montage sequences, which were funnier than the rest of the film.
I liked how the film spared no one; be it the right or the left or Netflix itself. “On the right, you got shit-nosed white extremists wondering out loud whether was all bad… and on the left, you got f***ing whiney woke lords cancelling shit out of anyone who dares to take a dump at the wrong time of the day,” says Leslie Jones as Dr. Maggie Gravel, Behavioral Therapist, who also happens to be my favourite from the film. It was also heartening to see how the tonality of the film became sober while recalling the death of George Floyd and the protest that ensued.
Given how the film doesn’t take anything seriously, it is hard to be grim about its shortcomings. At the end of the day, it looks like the makers of Death to 2020 were just having fun. Just that we don’t feel the same way watching it.