Y2K Review: Kyle Mooney’s Disaster Comedy Is a First-Half Blast, Second-Half Letdown

Y2K is ultimately less than the sum of its retro-styled parts.

Y2K
Photo: A24

“What if the Y2K bug was real” feels like such an obvious concept that it’s surprising that it took so long to come up with it. At its best, the teen horror comedy Y2K will make you feel glad that Kyle Mooney and Evan Winter were the first to the punch. Displaying the shaggy looseness of sketch comedy, the film regards its setting with an irony-free attention to detail as it keys itself to the vibes of people who came of age before the new millennium started and would give anything to live it over again, with or without killer robots.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999, and shy teenage nerd Eli (Jaeden Martell) is more worried about making an impression on his cool-girl crush, Laura (Rachel Zegler), than he is about the approaching millennium and what it might bring. After hitting up the video store with his gregarious best bud, Danny (Julian Dennison), the two decide to crash the party that Laura is attending to ring in the new year, but things go full-on end times when, at the stroke of midnight, all electronics start malfunctioning and combining in violent, sentient ways. Forming a ragtag group of survivors, Eli, Danny, and Laura have to team up with their nu-metal bullies (Lachlan Watson, Eduardo Franco, and The Kid Laroi) and a collective of burnout revolutionaries headed by video store owner Garrett (Mooney) to stop the robot apocalypse.

Mooney’s film is at its energetic best in its opening passages, effortlessly transporting viewers back to the waning hours of the last century with a nostalgic burst of kickass tunes and styling that’s period accurate without feeling exaggerated. Y2K freely incorporates AIM chatboxes, camcorder footage, and ’90s-style computer graphics to recall the very moment our rapidly expanding virtual world was becoming as ubiquitous as our offline one.

Fun flourishes abound, including a dreamy slow-mo beer run and a long, seemingly unbroken shot at a party in which Bill Pope’s camera pauses to observe the members of various high school social groups—from jocks and Bizkitheads to swing-revival dorks—with the soundtrack rapidly shifting to best reflect the preferred music of said groups. All the while, Martell and Dennison match the anything-might-happen coming-of-age movie energy as two adorable teenage dirtbags armed with a single condom and a dream of fitting in, while Zegler perfectly embodies the unattainable popular girl in butterfly clips with a secret love of hacking.

As soon as the world goes to hell, though, Y2K goes with it. The big sequence where the year 2000 hits and everything from a toaster to a Tamagotchi goes homicidal is a chaotic blast, but once the film shifts into a broader comic gear, it never quite finds its heart again.

There’s fun to Wētā Workshop’s killing machines for their mix of lo-fi and hi-fi flourishes, and Lachlan Watson, and as an overly earnest rap-rock enthusiast, and Mooney himself earn some of the film’s biggest laughs. We also get one of the best extended celebrity cameos since Zombieland. But outside of a scene in which a romantic spark finally ignites between Eli and Laura inside a portable toilet careening down a hill, everything about the film’s second half feels too frantic and tongue in cheek to deliver on the emotional beats set up in the first act.

A pre-millennial disaster comedy that doesn’t lack for throwback pleasures, Y2K is geared toward giving audiences the nostalgic feels. But once it gets caught in the hectic-ness stirred up the actors’ engagement with the script’s gooberish comedy and the at times dope practical effects, it struggles to stir up the butterflies that tend to come a lot easier to the coming-of-age stories of old with less thinly drawn characters at their center. Y2K, then, is ultimately less than the sum of its retro-styled parts: a good time that won’t stick with you for a long time, like a Sisqó song or all the new years you’ve celebrated that didn’t end in technological apocalypse.

Score: 
 Cast: Rachel Zegler, Jaeden Martell, Julian Dennison, Lachlan Watson, Daniel Zolghadri, Mason Gooding, The Kid Laroi  Director: Kyle Mooney  Screenwriter: Kyle Mooney, Evan Winter  Distributor: A24  Running Time: 93 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2024

Rocco T. Thompson

Rocco is a freelance writer on film, and an Associate Producer for CreatorVC’s In Search of Darkness series.

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