When I saw the trailer for It's a Disaster, about a brunch at the end of the world, I couldn't help but think the producers were ripping off, er, I mean riffing on Nevil Shute's On The Beach, which was a late '50s movie (Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner no less) and an early naughties TV series. The movie was famous for Ava Gardner remarking that Melbourne was a perfect place to shoot a movie about the end of the world.
But no, It's a Disaster seems to be mining a much fresher seam of apocalypse comedy, which maybe came to note with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. And by 'came to note' I mean 'passed by unwatched and unrecognised and not really noted at all.'
Or if you want to get pedantic, maybe it was Shaun of the Dead which kicked of the end times comedy tour. But I'd argue Shaun and Zombieland were more specifically about refashioning the undead subgenre than any overarching apocalypse theme.
The more interesting contrast is probably with the unabashedly bigger, dumber and louder This is the End, which looks a lot more Hollywood, despite its indie stylings.
This looks a lot more, I dunno, 'self aware'? No... self conscious, I think, than the Julia Stiles vehicle, but both of them look worthy of a night in front of the flat screen.
There's probably a metacultural point to be made about the existential exhaustion which leads up past fear of the end and into laughing at it. The rise of the disaster movie, in the 1970s, had a lot to do with Irwin Allen, but even more to do with Irwin's finding a way to cash in on a generalised fear of decay and collapse that gripped the western imagination after the 1960s finally shrivelled up and died in 1973.
The thing about those first disaster movies?
They had no sense of humour at all.