Review: Netflix’s ‘Death to 2020’

Death to 2020 takes everything you hated about this year and, well, shows it to you again. But funnier. Maybe.

Satirizing the classic documentary form, Death to 2020 goes through the past year (up until a few weeks ago) and tells it to the viewer as if we hadn’t all lived it. The film plays like an extended late night comedy sketch–everything it says is basically true, but it’s framed in a funny way. We alternate between real footage and interviews with a cast of stereotypical characters: liberal reporter Dash Bracket (Samuel L. Jackson), closeted bigot historian Tennyson Foss (Hugh Grant, who I literally thought was Bernie Sanders at first look), and quintessential white, liberal, uber-racist soccer mom Kathy Flowers (Cristin Milioti) are among the funniest.

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The characters are the best and worst part of Death to 2020. Like East Coast Liberals or all the teen party movies of the ’90s, this film seems to have the goal of summing up the archetypes de jour. In 2020, beyond the characters already mentioned, that includes a gazillionaire businessman, a millennial gig worker, and a conservative pundit. We hear these characters’ takes on coronavirus and the election, we hear what they did in response to protests against the police and institutionalized racism this summer, and we see the worst of each identity. 

Having finished my watch, my overwhelming feeling is that I’m not sure whether this needs to exist or not. It’s funny at times, absolutely. And, for those of us who haven’t seen it, it shows us a little taste of how the world is understood and approached by someone completely different – or perhaps how others see a caricature version of ourselves. There are even a couple of touching moments, as when the most average person in the world, Gemma Nerrick (Diane Morgan), realizes that the vaccine will put us all around each other again but it won’t take away all of the pain we give each other in regular life. 

And, on the other hand, am I the only person who’s worried that, in the current media climate, someone might not understand that Death to 2020 is being sarcastic? That’s misgiving number one. Misgiving number two is that we have all been stuck at home and probably on our devices all year and it feels like we’ve already seen everything a sarcastic retelling of 2020 can give us.

That’s the main issue: Death to 2020 doesn’t do anything new. No new ideas, not even really fresh comedy. It’s just us, making fun of each other, and hating what happened this year. Don’t get me wrong, I love many of the actors in this and I completely adored their performances. But if I’m going to watch a satire, or a documentary about history or social issues, I want it to make me think or feel something. And this didn’t. 

The Bottom Line

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Watch Death to 2020 for a laugh and for an appreciation of some fantastic comedians. But don’t expect it to make you feel any better, worse, or anything else, about this year.

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