Film Review: ‘It’s a Disaster’

WEK_ItsaDisaster_0412

The cast of “It’s a Disaster” try not to react to the end of the world (or at least Los Angeles).
Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

‘It’s a Disaster’
Director: Todd Berger
Stars: David Cross, Julia Stiles
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

“Kick-me titles” are rarely as hard to resist as “It’s a Disaster.” So it’s sad to report that the film that bears its name is merely only fitfully amusing, with a couple of decent ideas amidst a desert of lazy dead weight. David Cross plays, improbably, the straight man, invited into a house of grotesques for Sunday brunch. His new girlfriend (Julia Stiles) seems relatively together, apart from the fact that her friends are crazy (or maybe simply obnoxious) even before downing a few drinks. Extremely mild chaos ensues, even after it’s realized, belatedly, that dirty bombs have been set off all over the country, and that everyone is not long for a disgusting death.

“Disaster” is the second feature from the Los Angeles-based comedy troupe The Vacationers, whose shtick, evidently, is very — very, very — similar to the breed offered by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (and to a lesser extent “The League” and “Workaholics”). It’s the apocalypse peopled by jerks, who are so wrapped up in themselves they can’t even grasp the basic notion of their eclipsing mortality. While the smartest one (America Ferrara, the other name dropped into a cast of fresh faces) turns to drink, the host couple, who were going to use the occasion to announce their pending divorce, waste time listening to satellite radio and sifting through old photos, as though the world wasn’t about to end.

This one joke — a casual apocalypse — is amusing in theory but only fitfully in practice. The Vactioners have a gift for darkly comic semi-inspiration, but they wield this power too infrequently, leaning instead on banter that more often than not reveals only that they can crack eachother up, if not those watching them. Most of “Disaster” feels first-draft, as though the cast recorded an improv bout that seemed gangbusters at the time. That it regulates the most talented stars to a mere comedy sound board (Cross) and a drunk (Ferrara) is not a good sign, and it’s telling that, once Cross is belatedly allowed to break out, he scores a decent yuk with a “Saul of Tarsus” one-liner. There’s no budget to revel in end times hysteria — as there apparently is for “This is the End,” the extremely similar forthcoming Apatow fest — but being stuck in a single house is no excuse for only rewarding its characters with three or four things of mild amusement to do.


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