They say that alcohol is a powerful truth serum, that people tend to speak the truth when inebriated. Well, for the most part that’s accurate. But nothing brings out the truth in people like the end of the world.
Four couples meet for a monthly “Couples Brunch”. The hosts, Emma and Pete, have been married for eight years; same for Lexi and Buck; Shane and Hedy (America Ferrera) have been engaged for six years; and the fourth couple, Glenn (David Cross) and Tracy (Julia Stiles), is currently on their third date. Right from the start, the characters exist in a recognizable universe that most people can relate to. They speak like normal people and not caricatures; dialogues sometimes overlap and once in a while, someone cuts off someone else mid-conversation.
As they catch up on each other's progress in life and Glenn gets to know the rest of the group, something strange happens. Cell phones no longer have reception and the TV and landline phone (for faxing purposes- it’s an inside joke) don’t work, either. Pete insinuates that Emma forgot to pay the internet/TV/phone bill and just as he cracks a [harmful] joke about her forgetting to pay the electricity bill, the electricity in the house shuts off as well.
It doesn’t take long until they discover that several dirty bombs were exploded in the downtown regions of many major American cities. There’s the looming threat of radioactive clouds that float toward their neighborhood; however, that awful news subsides and worsens as they hear that that it’s not radiation that they need to be worried about but deadly VX nerve gas. They decide to seal up the house and remain indoors.
Contextually, this is a dark film that deals with how relationships fall apart during a crisis. But this film is also a comedy, plain and simple. When one is faced with a devastating situation, the truth pours out whether one likes it or not. This film delivers the “honest truths” that follow in a convincing yet comedic manner. While scavenging for supplies, one person finds out that someone else at that party had slept with their husband, and there’s also the situation of a possible threesome that develops in another bedroom. It’s a dark film, but it’s terrifically humorous.
The performances are relatively sincere and feed off the looming situation really well. When a situation dealing with survival is afoot, it’s almost immediately shut down by an argument that’s entirely unrelated but is appropriately character based. As a result, all of the characters are fully developed by the end of the film. The situation outside only worsens and so there’s no need to “develop” what is happening elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile these characters get into the dumbest arguments and most awkward situations that are typical and, as a result, hilarious.
A tremendous effort went into making sure that the theme of cause and consequence is ever present throughout the runtime and that it always makes sense. When one character is looking for a radio in the garage she finds a bowling ball and is excited. A few scenes later she’s seen bowling with bowling trophies that she’d also found. Another character tries to listen to the car radio for information about the terrifying situation outside but finds that the satellite radio subscription had expired months back. The situation sucks, but it makes sense within the context of said character that’d let the subscription run out. Again it’s all cause and consequence and in correlation to characters staying within character in a recognizable manner.
It’s a Disaster is about what we do in life and what we have, and at the end it’s about what we’re left with. Is what we currently have useful? Well, that’s what hindsight is all about. We can’t think about the future in a past tense so we concentrate on the present. We make do with what we have. We reminisce, we joke, and then we are frustrated. I can only hope that if I were stuck in that situation that I’d be stuck with those people because as silly and annoying as they can be, their earlier decisions in life and their consequences are disastrously hilarious.
The special features are an Audio Commentary; Tour with Todd; Comic-Con 2012; Shorts; and the trailer.