SXSW 2024: ‘Y2K’ Is a 90s Fueled Nostalgia Trip Down Memory Lane

Scott Menzel reviews Y2K, the directorial debut of Kyle Mooney, which had its World Premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival.
User Rating: 8

A24 has premiered or showcased several of their hit films at SXSW over the past decade. In fact, their very first commercial success, Spring Breakers, launched at the Cannes Film Festival, went on to play in its entirety at the Venice Film Festival, and had its US Premiere at SXSW in 2013. 11 Years later, SXSW has shown at least one A24 film during its in-person portion of the festival, including the Academy Award-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once. This year, A24 brought three big films to the festival: Sing Sing, Civil War, and Y2K. These three films couldn’t be more different from one another, but that is one of the main reasons why A24 is so beloved: because they take risks and tackle so many different types of projects.

Y2K is the directorial debut of YouTuber and SNL Alum Kyle Mooney. The film explores an alternative universe where Y2K happened instead of being a global scare where nothing occurred. Kudos to the A24 team for posting such a vague plot description online about two friends attending a party. Knowing next to nothing about the film enhanced my viewing experience because I didn’t know what to expect and was just happy to go along for the ride. Yes, this is one of those films that the less one knows about the plot, the better.

There is a lot to love about Y2K, but I must say that it is the type of film that will work best for those who lived through the whole Y2K doomsday scenario. The film relies very heavily on 90s nostalgia and references, so if you weren’t alive in 1999 and have no idea what AOL is or what it was like to be on dial-up internet, I think a good chunk of the jokes will go right over your head. Y2K is such a love letter to the 90s as it pays homage not only to films, music, clothing, and technology of the 90s but also to what it was like to be a teenager during the early days of the internet.

Kyle Mooney and Evan Winter wanted to make something that celebrated their childhood but also blurred the lines of genre. The whole end-of-the-world scenario, mixed with classic movie tropes about how technology will take over the world, is brilliantly executed throughout the film’s runtime. While the film definitely leans more heavily into the comedy, there are some thought-provoking moments sprinkled throughout. It is somewhat weird to get a reminder of what the internet was like in our past and how we allowed technology to control so much of our lives. I don’t know if all of the social commentary will be apparent to everyone, but I appreciated the little digs that Mooney and Winter threw into the script.

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In terms of cast, I don’t think you could have asked for a better cast to bring this project to life. Jaeden Martell (Eli) and Julian Dennison (Danny) have similar chemistry to that of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad. Eli is the nerdy and naive type, while Danny is the life of the party. Martell and Dennison play off one another rather nicely and have good energy on-screen. Lachlan Watson (Ash) and Miles Robbins (Nugz), who get quite a bit of screen time compared to some of the other cast members, are also very good together. I appreciated how there weren’t too many characters side characters in the bulk of the film because it allows the viewer to connect and fall in love with a smaller number of characters rather than have several who just put up and feel like scene stealers, which can happen from time to time in teen comedies.

Regarding standouts, Rachel Zegler is, without a doubt, the film’s MVP. I don’t know what to say about Zegler other than she has the “it” factor, which allows her to elevate every project she is a part of. I remember seeing her for the first time in West Side Story and thinking to myself, “Wow, she’s pretty damn good.” But after seeing her in Shazam 2, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, and Y2K, I can confidently say that she elevates all her projects and steals the show repeatedly. Zegler has this rare, captivating on-screen presence that you can’t help but be drawn to with each of the characters that she brings to life. She will be a massive star over the next several years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up with an Oscar or Emmy by the end of this decade.

I also have to say that Fred Durst showing up in this film was hilarious, especially if you grew up during the whole Limp Bizkit era. It was so fucking random to have him in the movie and to see how he plays into the story, but again, that is something that should be avoided at all costs.

While you might not expect this based on the type of film that this is, the movie does have some great visual effects work. I was shocked to learn that WETA worked on the film, given the small budget of only 10 million. The movie looks terrific and proves you can incorporate visual effects without costing a small fortune. I also don’t know how Mooney and company got the rights to so many iconic 90s tunes. The number of needle drops in the film was impressive, especially since they are from all different genres and not just the typical one or two pop songs that one would expect in a 90s flick.

As much as I enjoyed the film as a whole, I feel the film might have tried to do way too much in such a short time. For a 93-minute film, the movie has a little bit of everything from every genre, and I feel particular nods to specific genres worked better than others. For example, the fight scene between Eli and Danny at the party felt very forced and didn’t play well. I understand what Mooney was going for, but it didn’t feel right. I don’t think there was enough time spent with Eli and Danny for that scene to be effective, so it felt out of place and mean-spirited to play up a teen comedy cliché the film didn’t ultimately need. There are a few other small moments like this, but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the film. Mooney is an ambitious filmmaker, so I applaud him for taking some big swings even if not everyone works, or the effectiveness will vary from viewer to viewer.

Y2K is totally bonkers and the kind of movie I wish more studios would take risks on. After seeing so many television shows and films about the 80s, it is so refreshing to see a movie like Y2K tackle 90s nostalgia and perfectly capture what it was like to be alive in the 90s and early 2000s. Y2K has cult classic status written all over it. I definitely see this becoming a big hit for A24 and is sure to delight all those 90s kids.

Scott Menzel’s rating for Y2K is an 8 out of 10. 

8
Great
Written by
Born in New Jersey, Scott Menzel has been watching film and television since he was three years old. Growing up, he watched as many movies as he could and was highly influenced by the films of Tim Burton, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, and Steven Spielberg. Scott has an Associate's Degree in Marketing, a Bachelor's in Mass Media, Communications, and a Master's in Electronic Media. He has been writing film reviews under the alias of MovieManMenzel since 2003 and started his writing career as a contributing critic at IMDB.com and Joblo.com. In 2009, Scott launched MovieManMenzel.com where he posted several of his film reviews but in 2011 decided to shut down the site when he launched We Live Film.com. In 2015, We Live Film became We Live Entertainment. The domain name change occurred after months of debate but was done so that he and his fellow staff members could write about anything and everything in the world of entertainment.

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