By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT’S THE LAST MAN(s) ON EARTH ABOUT?
Two idiot survival experts put their skills to the test when an actual zombie apocalypse occurs.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A-)
In the last year only one film made me laugh so hard that my sides hurt. The Last Man(s) on Earth (stream it here) is the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time; not bad for an independent action-comedy with no major stars and a modest budget. It started as a series of YouTube videos in which a pair of idiots give survival tips (though they’re more concerned with zombie attacks, asteroid collisions, and saving the girl than actual catastrophes). The webisodes were amusing enough (some were much stronger than others) but the film takes the concept to a whole new gear. It’s a riot for both fans and newcomers alike.
The story, as it were, finds two self-made disaster “experts” joining forces with a bombshell brunette and an ex-colleague to prevent the end of the world, predicted by the ominous “Oracle.” If the narrative is at times predictable, the humor most definitely is not. The script, by Aaron Hultgren, is peppered with brilliant, out-of-left-field zingers and he has the perfect actors to deliver them. There is a contagious camaraderie and chemistry between the cast; they’re clearly having fun, and it spreads to the audience.
As Kaduche, Charan Prabhakar (Abandoned Mine, HBO’S Silicon Valley) exudes the constant intensity of a fearless action hero, combined with willful ignorance of his own incompetence. It’s a demanding comedic performance; his character’s journey drives the story, and Prabhakar rises to the challenge. Those who’ve seen him in other films will note just how far against type he plays here. It’s easily his best performance yet.
Brady Bluhm is known to audiences worldwide as Billy, the blind kid in Dumb and Dumber (and last year’s Dumb and Dumber To). As Wynn, the other half of the main duo, Bluhm displays a charming knack for boyish innocence. He’s the perfect child-like foil for Prabhakar’s humorous grandstanding. The film has a great deal of fun with their “bromantic” chemistry; they’re too innocent and clueless to recognize how it must look to others.
As Violet, Kaduche’s quasi-love-interest, Andrea Ciliberti more than holds her own with the other actors. Though she was Miss Missouri in 2005, Ciliberti proves early on that she wasn’t cast just for her looks: she’s got great comic timing and gives the proceedings a nice shot of attitude. She’s also the most grounded character, reacting to the ridiculous exploits of the “heroes” with enjoyable sass.
Darin Southam (Ephraim’s Rescue) is great fun to watch as he undergoes the metamorphosis from mild-mannered school teacher to… some kind of cross between romance novel heart-throb and long-lost member of the A-Team. He’s a rising talent to keep your eyes on.
With all due respect to the rest of the cast, however, the greatest performance in the film belongs to Rick Macy (The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd, Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration). Audiences used to his more pious roles are in for a treat here, as he cuts loose with a combination of grandiose scenery-chewing and darkly hilarious dry wit. Macy seems to relish playing “The Oracle,” a prophet of doom whose divinations of worldwide devastation are mixed with rampant egotism. Macy tackles the unabashedly silly script with zeal. He deservedly won Best Supporting Actor at the Filmed in Utah Awards for his work here (the bulk of the film was actually shot in California, but no matter). With limited screentime, Elizabeth Knowelden impresses as a scientist who just might hold the key to saving the world.
The movie’s not perfect, of course. Like most comedies it packs too many of its best jokes into the first half. This isn’t to say that the second half isn’t entertaining (in fact, my favorite one-liner is towards the end) but the pacing isn’t quite as fast and furious as it is towards the beginning. This leads to a few slow spots, but thankfully those only last for a few minutes and aren’t enough to do the film any serious harm. Also mildly disappointing is the fact that budget constraints keep the inevitable global disaster from being fully realized on screen.