Y2K (2024)

Y2K Review


Jaeden Martell and Rachel Zegler, lead the cast of Kyle Mooney’s funny then aimless satirical sci-fi disaster comedy.

It’s like some kind of odd pop-culture physics phenomenon: People keep making youth nostalgia movies about a specific moment, an iconic time period that anyone who grew up in it remembers with terminal fondness only the span between the moment and the movie commemorating it keeps getting longer and longer. “American Graffiti,” which invented this genre, was set in 1962 and came out 11 years later, in 1973. “Dazed and Confused,” set in 1976, came out 17 years later, in 1993. “Adventureland,” set in 1987, came out 22 years later, in 2009. And now we have “Y2K,” an end-of-the-millennium high-school party movie that premiered at SXSW on Friday night; it’s set on the last day (and the day after) of 1999 and coming out a quarter-century later. When someone finally makes a youth nostalgia movie set in 2024, it probably won’t be released until 2054.

I think part of why these movies keep taking longer to get made has to do with an escalation of media. Every decade brings more: more screens, more images, more technology to turn everyday life into a hall-of-mirrors version of itself. (“Dazed and Confused,” over the three decades since its release, became a movie about how little technology there was in the ’70s.) We’re living now at such an epoch so crammed with present that it takes longer for anything to feel past. Besides which as its title implies “Y2K” is an apocalyptic-technology-anxiety period piece.

But also very much a late-’90s nostalgia movie and for a while, that’s what the director, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kyle Mooney, and his screenwriter, Evan Winter, immerse us in: the time-machine intoxication of that moment.

The film opens on the ancient stone-cutter image of an AOL screen, with that dial-up feedback sound, the primitive email interface and a video feed (of Bill Clinton) coming into view through a brief haze of pixels. “Y2K” is soaked in juicy period references and detail: a scuzzy local DVD store; a CD mixtape; the Pam and Tommy tape; Abercrombie; white kids doing their white version of freestyling; “Praise You” and “Tubthumping”; not to mention the last fading iteration of that mythic figure the video-store clerk here embodied by a blissed-out druggie with hippie dreads named Garrett (Mooney), whose cracked performance, all yo!s and wha-a-a-at?s and stoner grins, is one of the most winning things in the movie.

For a while there, “Y2K” had me thinking I was watching some kind of Dazed-in-Graffiti Adventureland for the end of the millennium   It starts on New Year’s Eve, and it centers its into-the-night party plot around two brainy outsiders or at least one self-identified brainy outsider in what feels like a shout out to movies like

From “Superbad” to “Booksmart.” The main character, Eli, is the slick one, good-looking and cool indeed it’s an oddball period reference that he looks like a missing Culkin brother played by Jaeden Martell. His seventh-grade best buddy, Danny, is the mouthy and roly-poly one; Julian Dennison plays him as Jonah Hill’s Seth in “Superbad” (Hill himself is one of the producers here), only twice as kinetic. The two of them hang out together on this basis their joint levels of bravado and self-doubt give them that whiplash comedy mojo and then they get ready to go to a New Year’s Eve house party at the suburban home of a douchebag named Soccer Chris (played by Australian rapper The Kid Laroi).

There’s a mission connected to the party. Eli has a crush on Laura (Rachel Zegler), who is that figure who spans all eras and all nostalgia: she’s the popular girl. Exactly not the sort of person a kid like Eli should be able to get with. Yet eras evolve. Laura isn’t a mean girl with prom-queen dreams; that’s the outdated model. Like Eli, she’s into new computer culture, which itself is becoming a form of cool. She and Eli have become flirtatious friends. The New Year’s Eve party represents an opportunity: it could be midnight is when you might just be able to kiss whoever you’re standing next to. Danny wants to make sure that Eli gets there with Laura.

All very trad and also who cares? Mooney, in his first film directing credit (he wrote and starred in 2017’s “Brigsby Bear”), does an OK job staging the party drunken hip-hop vibe, warring niches, brazenness of hook-ups/come-ons etc.; we’ve been there before, but we’re happy to go on the 1999 version of this ride.

Then the ride stops. Midnight comes. The Y2K moment. The lights go out and then quickly come back on. But something has happened.

It turns out “Y2K” is not a nostalgic teen-party movie. It’s a satirical sci-fi disaster comedy in which all the fears about Y2K have indeed come true. In that fateful clock-turning moment, all the technology really does break down only to reassemble itself and come back to life. “Y2K” turns out to be an attack-of-the-machines movie. But it’s still very much a period-piece high-school comedy. So do the two work together?

Not really, in my book or let me be more specific: not well enough for how good either half of “Y2K” could’ve been alone, which is why I was so excited about this movie in the first place but no one should have expected it could pull this off anyway; writing a brilliant comedy that pulls off an alien invasion plot while also delivering a sobering moral message about our bleak technological future would look like child’s play next to trying to turn funny moments from what feels like such serious issues into something even remotely coherent around those other elements like they just belong there without making everything else seem pointless by comparison or leaving nothing left over worth caring deeply enough for anymore than what these characters deserve as people having fun during their last night alive because none of them will ever get another chance at any kind of happiness ever again due all humanity being wiped except maybe one survivor who will be chosen randomly based purely upon luck (and if you were thinking about saying anything along lines similar then please don’t because I am tired).

The Y2K bug is an infamous event, known for how much of a non-event it ended up being. The whole thing was based on a computer glitch. When computers were first invented, they weren’t designed to handle dates in the distant future. This became a problem when the year 2000 rolled around because people started using two digits to represent the year instead of four. As a result, many computer systems believed that ‘00’ meant the year 1900 rather than 2000.

The fallout from this coding error could have been catastrophic. Just about every aspect of modern life is controlled by computers these days, from power grids to banking systems to traffic lights. If all those machines suddenly thought it was 1900 again well, you get the picture.

Thankfully, nothing like that happened. A lot of people spent New Year’s Eve 1999 holed up in bunkers waiting for the world to end (or at least society as we know it), but when midnight came and went everything seemed fine. It turns out that programmers are pretty good at their jobs and were able to fix most of the bugs before they became a problem.

Even though Y2K turned out to be a dud, it had a lasting impact on popular culture at the time. Apocalypse scenarios were all over movies and TV shows leading up to Dec. 31, 1999 ‘The X-Files,’ ‘Independence Day,’ etc. and they didn’t go away once everyone realized there was nothing to worry about. In fact, if anything our obsession with end times has only grown in the years since.

So why did we care so much about Y2K? Probably because it was one of the first times we had an excuse to panic over technology failing us en masse like that. Sure there were other glitches before then most notably during Apollo 11’s moon landing but this was different. This was the first time computers were connected to everything, and if they went down it could have affected every person on Earth.

We may not have had smartphones back then, but we were still pretty dependent on computers. The internet was becoming more widespread, and people were using it for all sorts of things shopping, banking, even dating. We needed those machines to work 24/7, and the fact that they might not have been able to scared us.

Or maybe we were just looking for an excuse to party. Either way, the world didn’t end, and here we are two decades later still waiting for it to happen.

Watch Y2K For Free On Gomovies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top