I hope that, honestly, this is the last time I ever talk about 2020. Then again, with the way 2021 is starting out with all the craziness happening over in the United States (if you’re from the future, I really like to know what your history textbooks are saying about it), it’s starting to seem like the previous year was just a prelude to the insanity to come. Still, there is the saying that, if you want to know the future, you have to look at the past… or something like that. This just means, even though it’s going to be painful, we have to look at what happened in the garbage fire that was 2020.
That doesn’t mean we can’t look at it through a comedic lens. This is why, as much as I hated the previous year, I was very interested in seeing the new Netflix mocukmentary, Death to 2020.
Death to 2020 is a mockumentary styled comedy which documents, well, pretty much the biggest and crappiest events of 2020. However, instead of a deep and serious retrospective on what a historically bad year it was, Death to 2020 decides to describe the events of this rather insanity-laced year with a bit of dry humor. The film was written and produced by Charlie Brooker, who’s mostly known for his Black Mirror series. I’ve never seen an episode so I’m totally unfamiliar with Charlie Brooker’s work and style. I do hope this is a good barometer, however, because, despite most of the jokes being rather predictable, I did chuckle quite a bit throughout Death to 2020’s breezy 70-minute runtime.
Oh, when I mean the jokes are predictable, I actually mean that in the nicest way possible. When it comes to humor, I don’t really need to be surprised by any elaborate twist nor do I need my expectations to be subverted in order to like a joke. The punchline can even be seen from a mile away but, if its executed well, you’ll still find me laughing at it. Maybe I’m just very easily entertained? Whatever the case, I really liked a good chunk of the bits done throughout Death to 2020.
I will say, while everyone does get made fun of and it does seem Charlie Brooker isn’t afraid of staying in the middle of most things, Death to 2020 does poke fun at mostly the extreme views of the world. This leads to a lot of jokes made at the expense of the finger pointing “Karens” of the world, the flip-flopping politicians who will hypocritically deny anything on camera, the ignorant masses who don’t understand or don’t care what’s really happening in the world as well as the “woke” millennials who do “righteous” things because they want to get clicks. Fun fact: Netflix may have actually created an actual YouTube account to parody the last thing I mentioned.
However, as good as the jokes are, most of them are not particularly memorable and are only humorous in the context of the film. It’s actually difficult to relay or retell any specific bit in Death of 2020 without it coming off as rather lame. Then again, it may just be the deadpan delivery of all the actors who are featured in this mockumentary and, boy, did Netflix get a bunch of heavy hitters to get on board!
I would have to say the casting of Death to 2020 is generally spot-on. You have Samuel L. Jackson as the seasoned African-American reporter, Hugh Grant as a pompous and high-and-mighty historian, Lisa Kudrow as a domineering conservative pundit and Tracey Ullman as the “actual” Queen of England. This doesn’t mean the other performers weren’t great, though. I really loved Joe Keery as the clueless “woke” millennials and Cristin Milloti as Kathy Flowers, the “self-described soccer mom” who’s, well, the name should’ve been a dead giveaway on what her role in the film was but I was too dense to get early on. Hey, I said “most of the jokes being rather predictable,” I didn’t mean all of them!
The best performance, however, has to go to Laurence Fishburne, whom you never actually see as he plays the narrator of this mockumentary. I would say he was what really sold me on Death to 2020 while I was watching it. It was great to see Samuel L. Jackson get all riled up by the events and even Leslie Jones, who plays an angry behavioral scientist, deliver some sardonic lines. However, it’s Laurence Fishburne’s delicious deadpan delivery of some of the insults that I found really humorous.
I also do like, while most of the things covered in Death of 2020 are definitely the most memorable/infamous events of the year, they did cover some of the more minor moments which did happen. Well, I guess some of them, like the Australian wildfires and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle relinquishing their royal titles, would be the biggest stories of a “normal” year but 2020 was anything but. I’m still glad they did talk about them. I honestly forgot all about the issue of the lack of diversity of the Oscars despite Hollywood promising they would do better and Parasite winning Best Picture. In a year which was overstuffed with terrible historic events, Death to 2020 didn’t!
As much as I liked Death to 2020, I do have to say this Netflix mockumentary isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s mostly due to the timing. 2020 was a rough year and I can understand why some viewers might think it’s a little too soon to be making fun of such a, let’s just say, rambunctious year. Some of the wounds are still going to be rather raw. Additionally, as I’ve said before, the jokes are predictable. It’s not like we weren’t already making up the same gags all throughout 2020 so some of them may feel all played out already. Also, there is also going to be the percentage of those who will feel like they’re the targets and are just being made fun of all throughout Death to 2020, even though Charlie Brooker does try to go after everyone to be fair. Still, some of them will feel unduly and unjustly attacked.
However, I will still be giving Death to 2020 a solid thumbs up because I can only review it from my viewpoint and I did enjoy it in general. It was a good way to spend just over an hour and it was great to look at a more cynical but silly viewpoint on what a terrible year 2020 was.
I don’t want a sequel, though. I don’t want this year to be another huge greasefire of a year and give Charlie Brooker enough sordid material to make another one… but the way things are going, I fear it’s a foregone conclusion we’ll be getting Death to 2021 at the end of this year.
Have you seen Death of 2020? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comment section below!