Lifelong friends with high aspirations reunite after 10 years for their best friend’s 30th birthday, only to find themselves on the front lines of a mysterious alien invasion. Relationships are tested, lies are exposed, and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Also, they’re drunk. Very, very drunk. The sci-fi comedy (with emphasis on the comedy) and feature-length debut from Stephen Ohl, Useless Humans, provides a hilarious take on ineptitude and impending doom.
But the performances are key to a film like this. Our main quartet features Josh Zuckerman (Feast), Rushi Kota (Grey’s Anatomy), Davida Williams (Lizzie McGuire), and Luke Youngblood (Harry Potter) as the titular humans. The chemistry between the cast is palpable throughout most of the movie, and the comedic timing is 100% on point. I really believed throughout the film that I was watching four childhood friends reunited as though they never missed a beat.
However, these dead-on performances are simultaneously the film’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. While the behavior and dialogue depict exactly what the story needs, the characters’ drunken slurring sometimes dulls the punchline. Viewers with even minor hearing issues may struggle without captions, which is a shame because damn near every joke is a banger when you can understand it.
All of our main characters are “failures” in that quintessential millennial way. They dreamed big, and have since succumbed to the mundanity of daily life. Brian (Zuckerman) wanted to be the next Elon Musk, but ends up an assistant to an astronomer at a planetarium. Louis (Kota) finds himself trapped in domestic life. Jess (Williams) is in the middle of an endless string of dead-end relationships. Alex (Youngblood), the ‘fuck up’ of the group, might be the only one who lived up to his reputation.
The dialogue, meanwhile, accurately captures the typical pre-midlife existential crisis experienced in the transition from 20s to 30s. Our friends here lament their aging bodies, lack of motivation, and general feelings of unreconciled angst and disappointment in a comedic way that also hits home. It’s a ‘coming of age’ story for today’s 30-somethings, with a fitting end that appropriately captures the spirit of 2020. (It’s funny, I promise.)
Enough time is spent developing enough of the main cast to get on board once the alien shows up. Youngblood’s character, as the comic relief within the comedic troupe, is a tad underdeveloped, but still utilized effectively. Moreover, the alien design is effective and well executed, even if not terribly unique. Overall, Useless Humans is a fun entry in the alien invasion/stoner comedy, with a script and a story that would probably have sold out theaters with a more recognizable cast (and, also, if theaters were still a thing). Think Hot Tub Time Machine but with an unknown group of actors.
Useless Humans is available now on VoD and digital platforms.