Review: ‘Death to 2021’ Blends Humor and Raw Relatability

This enjoyable mockumentary reviews a brutal year, tackling real events with a satirical twist.


Courtesy of Netflix

The movie poster for the December 27th release of “Death to 2021,” codirected by Josh Ruben and Jack Clough

Joseph Penders, Contributor

The Netflix special “Death to 2021″ is a PG-13 mockumentary comedy that reviews all the aspects of the year 2021 that made it so infamous. The movie uses real news footage, along with several fictitious characters delivering satirical dialogue in documentary interview-like spaces, to highlight each major event.

Starting on January 1st, the movie began on a positive note, with the new COVID vaccines and optimism surrounding the new presidency. 

But it quickly contrasted this with the January 6th insurrection. Here, the movie took a satirical approach, in a series of fake news clips from an outspoken republican host.

“I’m just asking questions,” she said vaguely, yet suggestively, after each of her outlandish conspiracy claims. Throughout the film, these clips reminded viewers of the spread of misinformation in 2021. 

The movie quickly jumped from major topic to topic. The next was the new COVID variants. Here, the film used clips of real news reporters and footage of ‘anti-science’ protests to illustrate how, as the pandemic worsened, the threats of misinformation, anti-vaxxers, and COVID deniers grew existential.

While the film was mostly concerned with American issues, it also spent considerable time talking about British issues. Using commentary clips about Prince Harry and Megan Markle leaving the royal family, clips of the TV show Bridgerton, and real and fictionalized commentary about controversy surrounding the show, it exposed some deep-rooted racism in British culture. 

Since the film progressed chronologically, its next stop was with new social movements stemming from the documentary film Seaspiracy,” which exposed the human impact on marine life. Here, “Death to 2021” maintained its comedic outlook, with a fictionalized interview that cracked jokes about how every documentary released around the time caused viewers to not consume, or feel worse about consuming, something they had shamelessly done before.

The film appropriately dropped its satirical commentary of events when more serious subject matter arises. The murder of George Floyd was one of these.

I noticed the movie spent less time on these more serious events, and more time covering less impactful ones – like the “mega-rich” passing floating skittles around the first private space shuttle, which they trivially flew into earth’s lower orbit.

I suspect that, because the film’s objective was to get a laugh, it focused on lighter and more petty events that the writers could squeeze more jokes out of.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this movie. It covered so many topics, it would be impossible to discuss all of them in this review.

While some might argue that the film wasn’t funny enough, I’d argue that it was not supposed to be only funny.

The mixed perspective of the fictitious characters, and the fact that we lived through the time period the movie covers, brought a raw sense of relatability. Intertwining real footage with satirical commentary brought an element of humor to events that would otherwise just be depressing to think back on.