Brock, Video Central (Columbus, OH)
It’s A Disaster
“A bunch of people are at a dinner party when some sort of biochemical attack occurs, and they all wind up trapped together. They don’t like each other very much, so it doesn’t go very well. David Cross is in it, and it is a definitely worth a watch.”
“It’s A Disaster” is a dark comedy written and directed by Todd Berger, following a number of contentious couples who are trapped at a brunch by an unfolding chemical disaster.
Todd Berger has an assortment of writing, acting, and directing credits for things such as “Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters,” and “Southland Tales.” His most acclaimed film apart from “It’s A Disaster” is the only other one on which he has served as writer/director: “The Scenesters,” another dark comedy that he did 3 years prior to “It’s A Disaster.” It is about a serial killer who targets hipsters, and a vigilante plot to stop him. That film won a number of awards at film festivals such as Slamdance and the Phoenix Film Festival, but didn’t get a whole lot of exposure beyond that.
“It’s a Disaster” has a number of recognizable faces in the cast, such as David Cross (“Arrested Development,” “Mr Show,” “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”) and America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty,” “End of Watch”). However, the majority of it is made up of members of the comedy troupe The Vacationeers, who specialize in comedic shorts and features (including Todd Berger’s other feature film, “The Scenesters”).
Reception of “It’s A Disaster” was mixed: despite a number of awards at film festivals (New Orleans Film Festival, Bendfilm Festival, Edmonton International Film Festival), Rotten Tomatoes has it scored at 77%, with a critic’s average rating at 6.3. The audience score is 59% with an average score of 3.4, and the IMDb user rating is 6.5.
The film’s poster, lampooning the historical Kitchener / Uncle Sam recruitment posters, is probably as well regarded, if not better, than the film itself. The image of a man in a hazmat suit with a glass being ominously thrust towards the observer ties in incredibly well with the film’s plot and tone. If that doesn’t get you to watch the film, then it probably isn’t meant for you.
“It’s A Disaster” is very heavy for a comedy, even a dark one. It bounces from being a more-or-less lighthearted tale of bickering, cheating couples to incorporating murder plots and contemporary fears of domestic terrorism. It is still good without any doubt, but the tone is far from steady or even.
David Cross, as expected, is fantastic in the film. He is one of the funniest actors out there today in the realm of black comedy, and this film really allows him to show some of the range of what he is capable of. The rest of the roles in the movie are pretty clear-cut, though they definitely all devolve into different shades of panic over the course of the film.
The writing, particularly for the dialogue, is fantastic. The characters definitely have distinctive voices, and their interactions are always entertaining. In a film with a number of twists, there are also some great subtle hints threaded throughout the film in the dialogue, which is always good to see. That said, the characters become increasingly cartoony and unbelievable as the story moves on, but I think it adds to the surreal feel of the film as a whole, so it isn’t excessively distracting.
When it comes down to whether I can recommend “It’s A Disaster,” it is really a tough call. As I mentioned, this is a really heavy film that deals with a horrifying situation as the plot progresses. The interpersonal humor is all pretty funny for the bulk of the film, but things get exponentially more bleak in the last act. If anyone is a big fan of David Cross (particularly “Todd Margaret”), then this film is a must see. In general, I think anyone who can handle “Todd Margaret” would enjoy this film, as the tones are definitely similar.