“Death to 2020” lacks comedic spark

Sammie Thompson, Reviews Editor

2020 was a strange year for all of us and many were eager to wish it goodbye. Several companies were just as ready to ring in the New Year as the rest of us. Netflix, a popular streaming service, bid its farewell to the historic year in its comedic mockumentary, “Death to 2020”.

At an hour and 10 minutes long, “Death to 2020” was released on Dec. 27, 2020, five days before the calendar year was even officially over.  It’s labeled as a mockumentary, which is a movie or TV show that depicts fictitious subject matter (or, in this case, real events but fictional characters) as a documentary, normally in an attempt to be comedic or mocking.

While there were many instances of this film mocking the people and events that made this past year the historic one it was, I’m hesitant to say that it checked the “comedic” box.

First of all, “Death to 2020” shares the same creators as “Black Mirror,” a British sci-fi show set in the near future. This means that many of the topics that were touched on and jokes that were made appealed to either an American audience or a British one, but not both.

There were several broad topics that were involved throughout the entire film, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Presidential Election, and the Black Lives Matter movement. However, more specific events were also mentioned, like the Australian wildfires, Brexit (the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union), and even the controversial show “Tiger King”.

Many other important events were discussed, but there was a strange balance between American and British appeals. For example, there is a segment where one of the characters, a British woman who has been given the title of “most average citizen,” is interviewed about her experience in quarantine. She describes watching a show called “America”, which turns out to really be the news channel. This appeals to a British audience, as they may have been in a position similar to this in 2020 watching American news. However, the film quickly returns to describing events that appeal mostly to American viewers, making it hard to decipher who the intended audience was.

Another reason why the comedic aspect of this film didn’t completely check the box for me was because it required a very specific type of humor to appreciate some of the jokes. It was filled with satire, especially political satire, and dark humor. While many people love this type of humor, it’s definitely not for everyone.

Not only was the style of humor very specific, but many of the jokes presented in the film had already been made before. From the standard toilet paper jokes amid panic shopping at the beginning of the pandemic to the jabs at Donald Trump’s hair and Joe Biden’s age, many of them had already been beaten to death while these events were actually being experienced. Because of this, “Death to 2020” earned fairly low reviews. However, that’s not to say that there weren’t any laughable moments.

A high point of the mockumentary was its star-studded cast. The film opens to a shot of Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a reporter named Dash Bracket, talking to the director of the documentary. Next comes Hugh Grant and Lisa Kudrow who play historian Tennyson Foss and “non-official spokesperson” Jeanetta Grace Susan, respectively, and the big names just keep coming.

I enjoyed a lot of the performances and felt like most of the actors really tried to embody the persona that they were “interviewing”, even when the film’s script wasn’t the best. My favorite performance was Kudrow’s as the “non-official spokesperson”. As this character, Kudrow made exaggerated claims and mocked certain real-life politicians, all while maintaining a mesmerizing composure and perfect smile. I also liked Kathy Flowers, a self-proclaimed “soccer mom” and conspiracy theorist played by Cristin Milioti.

All in all, this cast had some potential that was lost through inadequate writing, however, it ultimately gave this film the boost that it desperately needed.

Something else that I was impressed with was the overall production and visuals of the film. Fictional interviews with characters were intermingled with real-life clips and photos from the past year. This was a smart move, as it allows the viewer to relive these historic moments as they are hearing the characters comment on them. This kept it visually appealing and more informative than if they had just used footage of the mock interviews.

I was even more impressed when I learned that the entire mockumentary was filmed over a span of 10 days, with one of the 10 characters filming each day to follow COVID-19 protocols.


Additionally, several of the events that were discussed, like the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, occurred not long before filming and had to be written in. These time constraints were evident in the final product. There were times where the commentary felt choppy, like certain parts had to be added at the last minute. However, it could be argued that this fit in with the chaotic aspect of 2020 that the mockumentary was trying to convey.

Overall, “Death to 2020” wasted a lot of potential with a qualified cast and inadequate writing. It has several good performances and makes a smart choice to utilize clips from real life in telling the story of 2020, but it pairs these strengths with weak humor and a confusing combination of topics.

This mockumentary is definitely not for everyone, as it covers topics and events that may be sensitive for many people. I would recommend watching it if you have a spare hour and want to relive historic events of the past year and have a good laugh or two, but I wouldn’t go into it with super high expectations.