Tribeca: ‘Nuked’ is a Cannabis-Infused End-of-the-World Blast

Tribeca: ‘Nuked’ is a Cannabis-Infused End-of-the-World Blast
Tribeca Festival

Milestone birthdays can do interesting things to people, forcing them to confront the years they’ve lived and to look ahead to what they may feel isn’t all that much time left as they thought. Blowout celebrations are common, as is the idea of reliving glory days, often prompting reunions with old friends who represent nostalgic memories from the past. Nuked brings together a group of college buddies for the fortieth birthdays of one couple among them, with everyone there unprepared for the zaniness about to ensue that starts with a good deal of cannabis and soon gives way to the impending apocalypse.

Jack (Justin Bartha) and Gill (Anna Camp) are happily married, though Jack’s strong desire to have a baby and Gill’s obsession with her successful podcast have created problems just waiting to bubble to the surface. Their fortieth birthday celebration involves two major twists from Jack: all the guests will have to put their phones in a box that will be hidden away for the night, and Chef Sasha (Natasha Leggero) is preparing a dinner full of cannabis designed to gradually build everyone to the perfect high. When one guest, new mom Penelope (Lucy Punch), finds her phone so she can check on her baby, she also notices an alert that changes the vibe of the evening: there’s a missile headed towards California and everyone has been advised to seek shelter immediately.

Nuked shouldn’t really be categorized as a stoner comedy, though its characters most definitely do get very high. But there’s also a sense that they’re all seeking an escape – except for Penelope, who can’t believe anyone would invite a new parent to a no-phones party especially without telling them ahead of time – that allows them to decompress and revisit better times. This party is an excuse for people to detach from real life, with or without their phones, and act irresponsibly as if there are no consequences. The impending end of the world only elevates that sentiment, and the fact that everyone is already high heightens the antics exponentially.

Supporting a typically great Bartha and Camp are Stephen Guarino and Maulik Pancholy as a couple who has been together for nearly as long as Jack and Gill, and they immediately show up with snarky personality. Punch and George Young are the new parents whose relationship has suffered as a result of Penelope’s understandable devotion to her new child and her husband’s sense of abandonment by his wife. Ignacio Serricchio is entertaining as a musician whose feelings for accomplished weapons analyst Mo (Tawny Newsome) immediately return upon seeing her, and the two make for a fun odd couple. Natasha Leggero rounds out the cast as the cannabis chef obsessed with presentation who takes herself far too seriously. There’s no weak link in a cast full of memorable standouts.

Deena Kashper makes an impressive feature debut with this laugh-filled comedy that makes excellent use of its ensemble but also begins with a sharp script full of rapid-fire exchanges that highlight all the characters. Enabling each member of the nine-person cast to contribute substantially to the story and feel fleshed-out is no small feat, but this film pulls it off. While Bartha and Camp, surely the biggest names in the cast, are indeed the leads, this film gives each person a chance to shine and show just how they deal with extreme pressure and the inconvenient need to share something intimate in front of a group that isn’t exactly strangers but might as well be given how little this crowd gets together and actually knows each other anymore. If this is how the world has to end, spending the last night with this group is a guaranteed recipe for a great time.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Nuked makes its world premiere in the Spotlight Narrative section at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

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