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Originally published Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 10:05 PM

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‘It’s a Disaster’: This doomsday brunch lacks spice

A movie review of “It’s a Disaster,” an underbaked comedy about eight people at a brunch in a Los Angeles house within gasping distance of a large-scale catastrophe.

The New York Times

Movie Review

‘It’s a Disaster,’ with Julia Stiles, David Cross, America Ferrera, Todd Berger. Written and directed by Berger. 88 minutes. Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug content. SIFF Cinema at the Film Center.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

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It may be the end of the world, but they feel fine, even oblivious. That, at any rate, appears to be the principal, really the only point of the impishly, unfortunately titled “It’s a Disaster,” an underbaked comedy about eight people facing their mortality.

Set in the present, it mostly unfolds in a Los Angeles house within gasping distance of a large-scale catastrophe of the kind usually let loose by masters of disaster, like Roland Emmerich. The writer and director, Todd Berger, is working on a far smaller scale than his blockbuster brethren do, and that may explain why he keeps calamitous details fuzzy, using two corpses, a hazmat suit and a murder of crows to suggest the apocalyptic big picture.

It’s also unclear what Berger hopes to accomplish here, other than sending off the doomed with laughs.

The hook is a couples’ brunch, a regular get-together that no one seems to enjoy yet all nevertheless habitually attend. The couples include the unhappy hosts, two swingers and two dullards. The liveliest, most persuasively acted, if oddly matched pair are played by Julia Stiles and David Cross.

When the bad news hits, Stiles conveys a sense of what it means to expect the worst, while Cross entertainingly trips down an unexpected path, one that suggests that Berger might have wrung more from his setup if he had gone far wider and weirder.

The movie lurches from the improbably silly to the drearily so. Its unrelenting visual drabness only adds to the unfortunate sense that while the end will come soon for the characters, it isn’t coming anywhere near fast enough.

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