The housing market crash of 2007 is one of the most tragic events in American—and world—history in the 21st century. Eight million Americans alone lost their jobs and six million lost their houses, and the effects can still be felt.

So you’d think that the appropriate film about this tragedy would be just that—a serious, hard-nosed look at the event and its aftermath. Put someone like Adam McKay—whose done such works as Anchorman, The Other Guys, Stepbrothers—and you might be scratching your head thinking—“is he really the best person to handle the story?”

Yes, in fact he may be as he infuses sharp, cutting dialogue with a compelling All the President’s Men-esque (which is even referenced in the film) examination of the weirdos, losers, and outsiders who discovered that there was a bubble that would pop far before it did—and how they still managed to turn a profit.

While it can be all too easy to get bogged down in the semantics of the film, what with all of the explanations about funding, business terms, and other phrases that most people have either never heard of,The Big Short tries its best to guide you along on its frenetic, peppy pace inter-splicing rapid shots while also adding in a little dose of fourth-wall breakage, resulting in a heaping portion of tongue-in-cheek humor. Though this may seem like rubbing salt in the still-fresh wounds of those who were affected, you gotta hand it to McKay for giving his first dramatic film his all as he never lets the humor infringe on the seriousness, while also directing an all-star cast in some excellent performances.

Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt all turn in some memorable, outstanding performances as the “freaks” who were some of the first to discover the bubble. Bale is the standout here as the odd, cargo-short sporting, barefoot hedge fund manager who initially finds the instability. His eccentricities make for a grand role and Bale owns it. Carrell also deserves commendation as he throws out a cantankerous, bitterly funny role that might just earn him an award.

Punctuated by a few celebrity cameos—who I won’t spoil—it really seems like McKay was having a lot of fun making the movie. There are some odd moments, but nothing over-the-top or zany as he somehow grounds the film in a believable reality that is far from his other work. Though he may never make the transition to fully dramatic films, this is a great middle-ground and I hope to see more in the same vein from him.

Any movie that deals heavily with an area of business, law, or otherwise is bound to run into troubles in teaching the audience the language. So while it is easy to get lost in the verbiage, The Big Short still manages to come out on top thanks to fantastic performances and a nice balance of comedy and drama for topic that is still so fresh in the minds of millions of people here, and around the world.

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