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L.A. Film Fest Review: "It's A Disaster" Is Twistedly Funny

Staff reporters |
June 22, 2012 | 10:42 a.m. PDT


(Vacationeer Productions)
(Vacationeer Productions)
When seeing a disaster movie, the few potential outcomes can loom throughout the film. The focus can quickly turn to, "Who is going to die and when?" or "Who will survive the apocalypse?" 

"It's a Disaster" has so many subplots and side conversations that the end of the world is the least of the audience's problems. 

The film focuses on four couples who have gathered for their traditional Sunday brunch. They become so entangled with their own issues--marriage, divorce, cheating, dating crazy men--that they don't even realize the world is coming to an end around them.

Chemical bombs explode all over downtown Los Angeles, which means the end is nigh for those in the house just a few miles away from the epicenter. 

"It was always on my mind…I always wanted to watch them die slow, painful deaths," director Todd Berger joked, explaining his motivation behind making the film.

The story takes place in the limited setting of a single home, yet the quirky and witty script carries the plot without the environment becoming stale. "It's a Disaster" might seem a little slow at times, but it is loaded with clever laughs that make up for it. 

Berger said he was inspired by the cult classic "Night of the Living Dead," but that he felt zombie movies were "done" at this point. Still, his appreciation for the movie encouraged him to write a script about people being stuck during the end of the word.

"I liked the idea of a bunch of people being forced to stay inside the house, because you never know when there's going to be an earthquake or terrorist attack," he said during the post-screening question and answer session. 

The cast is a mix of household names--Julia Stiles, David Cross and America Ferrera--and some who are not so well-known. The film's producers, Kevin Brennan, Jeff Grace and Blaise Miller, also star. The actors really did suffer, even though the apocalypse was purely fiction. The movie was filmed during the hottest two weeks in L.A. history and the crew couldn't turn the air conditioning on because it was too loud. Talk about dedication to one's art.

The film's greatest strength is the depth of thought Berger put into what could have easily become just another doomsday comedy. 

When the movie begins, Tracy (Stiles) and Glenn (Cross), are sitting in the car in front of the house. The 1812 Overture is playing on the radio, and Glenn shuts it off before the finale. Tracy explains that she finds it incredibly frustrating and unfulfulling to have all that build up and no resolution. 

That sentiment perfectly foreshadows what follows. "It's a Disaster" is one big build up with no real resolution. If you were hoping to find out what happens to the four couples, you have about as much luck as you do figuring out the end of "Inception." 

The level of attention to detail doesn't stop there. Each character is modeled after the eight stages of grief--Hedy, for example, is shock; Glenn is acceptance. Fitting for a movie that deals with impending death and the end of days.

"It's a Disaster" is a gem of an indie comedy, and it's perfect for filmgoers with a dark--sometimes awkward--sense of humor. 

And for those wondering if Cross spilled news on the "Arrested Development" movie, the answer is yes--but nothing good. 

"We were supposed to shoot in the next few days," he said in the question and answer session. "But I have yet to see a script or a contract."


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