Rachel Zegler, Julian Dennison, and Jaeden Martell staring in disbelief in Kyle Mooney's Y2K | Agents of Fandom

SXSW 2024: A24 Comedy ‘Y2K’ Tries To Bring SNL Humor to the Big Screen

Kyle Mooney fails to turn a hypothetical world-ending event into a funny high school adventure flick in his directorial debut.

What if Y2K actually happened and machines took over? That’s the question that Kyle Mooney‘s directorial debut Y2K tries to answer in the most hilarious and absurd way possible.

An A24 flick, Y2K follows two high school buddies Eli (Jaeden Martell) and Danny (Julian Dennison) who have no prospects, no girls, and no fun in their lives. They chat with each other over AIM and download dial-up porn like most high school juniors in 1999. When the final day of the year arrives, they decide to spice up their lives and level up by crashing a New Year’s Eve party.

Of course, Eli’s crush Laura (Rachel Zegler) is the driving force behind Eli shooting his shot at the cool kids type of high school life. With the hopes of a midnight kiss in the wings now that Laura has broken up with her stereotypical soccer boyfriend — aptly named Soccer Chris (The Kid LAROI) — Eli is soon met with a horror even he could not imagine.

Kyle Mooney Brings Uneven Humor Reliant on 90’s Nostalgia

Close-up of Kyle Mooney chatting in a studio in SNL I Agents of Fandom
Y2K director Kyle Mooney capitalizes on SNL-style funny bits that see himself playing a stoner in his own movie. Image Credit: NBC.

The clock strikes midnight and Y2K — along with all the hilarious, cringy, and very real fears that it brought in real life — becomes far more tangible than a potential global destruction phenomenon. The computers, VHS players, and Tamagachi’s band together, both physically in the monsters they create and mentally in the shared consciousness they enable, to form a technological evil out for revenge.

Eli, Danny, Laura, and a few of the misfit friends they amass along the path to survival must voyage across town to the computer consciousness headquarters and save the world. The film then rapidly descends into what can only be classified as an A24-specific millennium comedy/horror — think This Is The End meets Saturday Night Live meets a computer virus threatening humanity’s existence. The horror takes some blood-spurting swings, offering up some moments that feel like a complete encapsulation of the very best of the ironic horror genre. When I say that you’ll never guess some of the brutal action that takes place, I mean it.

The movie works surprisingly well for the first 20 minutes, bursting at the seams with nostalgic references and 1999 callbacks. After that, the new-millennium sheen wears away quickly, becoming a monotonous attempt at recreating a comical exhibition of an event that never happened. Sure, it gets bloody and it gets weird, and there are even moments that bring forth that typical Kyle Mooney comedy (he plays a stoner whose inclusion makes little sense to the narrative and brings forth humor that unfortunately is way more miss than hit) but it isn’t enough to push it past the finish line.

Undoubtedly, the movie attempts to offer commentary on the dangers of tech, AI, and the idiocracy of the human race with some themes resonating more than others if only for their inventive production design and practical effects (read computers as big bad robots) that come across on screen. It’s a noble attempt, but again, an ultimately failed one.

Even a Fun Cast Can’t Save ‘Y2K’ From Disaster

Julian Dennison as a prisoner holding a blanket in Deadpool 2 | Agents of Fandom
Julian Dennison has quietly shown his star power in numerous projects. Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Julian Dennison brings a particular energy to the flick that proves he has comedy chops even in a less-than-perfect script. Known for his work in Hunt For The Wilderpeople and more recently Deadpool 2 and Godzilla vs. Kong, he carves out a pocket of engaging acting that left me looking forward to his scenes and wanting more of them when he wasn’t on-screen.

Jaeden Martell, most famously from It and also starring in another film that is having its world premiere at SXSW, Arcadian, brings what he can to a supremely underwritten, hormone-infused high school student in a mostly forgettable screen presence. It’s Rachel Zegler’s casting that is both intriguing and perplexing — she brings a certain stardom and selling cache to the movie that will no doubt have her fanbase clamoring to see this film; yet, while she gets to partake in big narrative pivot points throughout, it feels as though she doesn’t get the opportunity to properly bring that stardom to the project.

At the end of the day, Y2K boils down to an SNL-style skit exasperated over the course of 93 minutes with a simple, lackluster narrative built into it. The beginning of the first act delivers a juice that I wish Mooney and company could have squeezed all the way through to the end of the project. Alas, they do not, and Y2K, while it’ll find its fanbase under A24’s magnetic umbrella, will fade into the comedy genre just like Y2K faded into the background of the new millennium — quietly and disappointingly.

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'Y2K' SXSW 2024 Review

'Y2K' SXSW 2024 Review
2 5 0 1
2.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Kyle Mooney blasts some fun 90's references in our faces.

The Bad

  • Kyle Mooney blasts some fun 90's references in our faces - for way too long.
  • Underwritten characters and predictable plot.
  • The potential of a funny cast is wasted on a tired script.
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