3.5 out of 5 stars
It is no small achievement to make digestible and accessible to a mainstream audience the complicated and technical subject of the 2008 sub-prime mortgage meltdown, so it is predominantly to writer-director Adam McKay’s credit that he never loses the audience throughout the 2hrs+ duration of his film. Using every single trick in the book to do so: he breaks the fourth wall and utilizes metaphors to keep the jargon and exposition-heavy dialogue fun but not frivolous; he utilizes famous and pretty faces for cameos and amongst the main ensemble not only to help us keep track of the numerous characters swirling around but also to keep us engaged. There’s the guy from New Girl and the cute one from American Horror Story. Look, there goes Amy Pond from Doctor Who and is that Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Batman’s here too, playing Rain Man and Michael Scott from the Office plays Angry Guy (the only character with a bit more background and nuance). But the real MVP is McKay. The light touch he brings in both the writing and the presentation is what makes the film works: a visualized dissertation, in the style of a faux documentary with celebrity re-enactments, where the ‘comedy’ derives from the totally ridiculous and absurd situation our economy finds itself in. Characters unfortunately do come across as a little one note, but this simplification is the price to pay in order to get the important message across effectively and entertainingly so that the film will get the widest audience it so richly deserves and demands.