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Nuked Film Review: Lots of Drugs, Less Laughs

A man with a blue shirt and a woman with an orange shirt take a selfie smiling in the film Nuked

Nuked takes a likable cast and a promising high-concept premise and plays it safe with stock characters and predictable situations.

Director: Deena Kashper
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 86′
Tribeca Premiere: June 13-16, 2024
Release Date: TBA

Stick a bunch of funny people in a remote mansion, and funny things are sure to happen, right? Nuked falls back on this tried and true conceit to varying degrees of success. The feature debut from writer and director Deena Kashper is a high-concept ensemble comedy where the character beats are telegraphed almost from the get-go, and which relies on a few too many of the genre’s tropes.

At least it deals with a demographic – late thirtysomethings and early fortysomethings – that isn’t given the spotlight often enough in mainstream comedies.

I’m never one to shy away from dumb comedies – I will always defend films like A Night at the Roxbury and Strange Wilderness – so Nuked had the potential to be a low-budget entry in the sub-genre. The film’s logline calls to mind a less meta version of This is the End (another personal favorite dumb comedy): a group of long-time friends gets together for a birthday party, takes a load of drugs, and learns of the impending apocalypse. 

The friends include Jack Langer (Justin Bartha, The Hangover) and Gill Langer (Anna Camp, Desperados). She’s a perpetually online, successful podcaster who sees every little detail of their life as potential fodder for content, and he’s… her husband. There’s Penelope (Lucy Punch, Silent Night) and Sam (George Young, Falling for Christmas), new parents who see the birthday party as their first opportunity to let loose. There’s Logan (Ignacio Serrichio) and Mo (Tawny Newsome); he’s a rocker and she’s a political consultant, and they have a sordid romantic past. There’s Ishaan (Malik Pancholy) and Damian (Stephen Guarino), long-term partners who have recently navigated a cancer scare.

eight people sit around a dinner table with their plates full and a woman stands looking at them in the film Nuked
Nuked (Tawny Newsome / 2024 Tribeca Film Festival)

Jack plans a night of cannabis infused shenanigans in a rented mansion, but right after everyone begins losing their sobriety, they learn there’s a missile heading straight towards them – though the details are a little fuzzy. I can’t fault Kashper for the scenes that follow, where everyone brings up long-simmering resentments, re-kindles long-lost romances, and expresses their deepest regrets. It’s an easy way to drum up character development and situational comedy, but it’s never really all that funny. The drugs never really factor into the proceedings as much as you’d expect in a film with a double entendre title like Nuked. Here’s a film with a golden opportunity to get silly, and it never really takes it. At least Kashper is smart enough to leave out the almost obligatory surreal drug trip sequence which almost always comes up whenever large quantities of drugs are ingested in stoner comedies.

Neither does the film really let its cast get loose and bounce off one another. Instead, Kashper fills most of the first two thirds pairing each of the above-mentioned pairs of friends together to hash out their issues. I like Justin Bartha, Anna Camp, Malik Pancholy, Tawny Newsome, and Lucy Punch – and guest Natasha Leggero – all capable improvisers who are able to infuse even the dullest proceedings with plenty of energy and bizarre specificity. Thankfully, Nuked clocks in at a measly 86 minutes with credits, so even if you’re like me and don’t ride along the film’s wavelength, you’ll get in and out before you feel like your time has been wasted.

Nuked premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 13-16, 2024. Read our list of 15 films to watch at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival!

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