Movie review: "The Big Short" finds humor in bubble burst

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

I have to admit, I would not have picked Adam McKay to direct a movie about the global financial crisis. After seeing the unexpected dark horse "The Big Short," he seems kind of perfect for the job.

Who knew that the director of "Anchorman" would be the right person to make a complicated lesson in modern finance go down so easy?

McKay -who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Randolph from a non-fiction book by Michael Lewis - excels here not just because of his ability to insert some wit in a dry topic. He also is adept at handling an ensemble cast, and he's got a really good one here.

"The Big Short" is the story of a group of Wall Street "outsiders" who saw the housing loans bubble that the rest of the financial world couldn't (or, more aptly, wouldn't). Like any good capitalists, they figured out how they could make money off the impending collapse.

It's a stellar cast, if a bit too much of a boys' club - Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell and, to a lesser extent than his name on the poster would indicate, Brad Pitt. Bale is the standout, but there's nary a weak link.

McKay also employs a clever device to explain the mundane complexities of high finance, with a series of comedic cutaways to celebrities like Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain giving layman's explanations directly to the camera.

"The Big Short" hits some of the same notes as "The Wolf of Wall Street." It makes you laugh hard enough that you don't realize how angry you are.

"The Big Short"

Opens Wednesday, Dec. 23

3 1/2 stars out of 4