Released at just the right time, ‘Disaster’ is the beginning of the end for apocalypse comedies

If Seth Rogen has seen It’s A Disaster, he’s probably taken a few notes. Although I don’t anticipate his upcoming This is the End to be as intelligent or Woody Allen-esque as Todd Berger’s new comedy, I do give Rogen the benefit of the doubt by mentioning that he admires his contemporaries. He’s shown that time and time again – working with the polarizing Jody Hill in Observe and Report, working with Michelle Williams and auteur Sarah Polley in Take This Waltz, and signing on with Judd Apatow for Knocked Up and Funny People, which are more cerebral and witty than most people give them credit for. But this review isn’t about him. It’s about Todd Berger, and how he might have just shown him up.

Disaster begins when David Cross as Glen and Julia Stiles as Tracy arrive at a couples’ brunch hosted by Erinn Hayes as Emma and her husband, Blaise Miller as Pete. Everybody knows each other except for Glen, who Lexi (played by Rachel Boston) immediately latches on to, although we later learn that it may be due to her drug bender the previous evening. Lexi and her husband Buck (Kevin M. Brennan) are the most comically exciting people at this party, despite America Ferrera’s hilarious portrayal of Hedy, a scientist who is going through a major psychological break, and Jeff Grace’s deadpan Shane, Hedy’s fiancée and a clear comic book junkie. Emma and Pete inadvertently announce their impending divorce before their neighbor Hal (Todd Berger himself) stops by in a hazmat suit to inform them of their impending doom. If anyone steps outside, they’d be killed nearly instantly by chemicals present in the air of the United States due to the chemical warfare that began while the couples in question were all sitting down to eat. That doesn’t sound funny and it isn’t, but what I found outrageously funny were these characters.

Berger has crafted whimsical characters that somehow stay about 20% grounded in reality, thanks in large part to the balance of tone in the film. Different couples are going through different yet un-separate issues, like Emma and Pete’s relationship and how it improves and impacts the rest of the group. I could never predict where this film was going to go despite the fact I knew the world was going to end. This is what I mean when I talk about Seth Rogen. I’m wary of most studio comedies, and while I do admit that Rogen has innate talent, his upcoming film will most likely be fairly predictable, no matter how funny it is. Edgar Wright’s The World’s End has the potential to blow both of these films out of the water, but for now, Todd Berger has given Wright and Rogen a run for their money. 

(It’s A Disaster is now available for rental and purchase on iTunes and Amazon)

– George Napper

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