Rodney Rothman is a spectacularly funny guy, and yet I'd wager that many of the audiences who have laughed their faces off at a joke he wrote have never heard his name. That will most likely change after the opening of what Universal is calling Untitled Zach Galifianakis/Bill Hader/Seth Rogen R-Rated Comedy, which Rothman is directing from his own original script.
I've known Rothman for a while now. We first met on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and right after that, I tracked down his book, Early Bird: A Memoir Of Premature Retirement. He was a writer for Late Night With David Letterman when he was 21 years old, and at 24, he was promoted to head writer. That's the job he left before writing Early Bird, but he didn't stay unemployed for long. He wrote some episodes of Undeclared and Committed. He tried to get an Early Bird TV show off the ground. And as a producer, he worked his way up through the ranks of shows like Undeclared, Game Over, Committed, and Help Me Help You. This is a guy who has put in some serious man-hours over the years.
Watching how easily Rothman fit into the larger Judd Apatow family on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, though, I'm not surprised that he and Nick Stoller have been such strong collaborators. I've been able to watch the way they work together on films like Marshall, Get Him To The Greek, and The Five-Year Engagement. And for a while now, Rothman's been working on his own script, a science-fiction comedy that is very close to his heart.
The IMDb still lists the project under the original title of the script, The Something, but since Universal's not using that title in any of the press releases, they may still change that. Whatever they call it, I'm thrilled it's actually happening, and with that cast, they are in great shape. There are still two major women's roles to cast and one other male, and I'll be curious to see who they get. These are all strong roles for comic performers, a genuine ensemble piece, and if you're a fan of science-fiction/horror films over the last 30 years or so, you're in for a real treat.
Landing somewhere near the intersection of Alien, The Thing, and Dark Star, the film starts with an all-male crew of astronauts on a mining mission who have long since succumbed to basic space madness. They are miserable, their mission is a disaster, and they hate each other. They're on the verge of snapping when they suddenly encounter another American spaceship, this one on a very secretive mission, and the men decide to make contact with the other crew.
That's all I'd feel comfortable saying about the plot. Suffice it to say Rothman's an obvious fan of these types of films, and like This Is The End, the script feels more like a genuine science fiction/horror film than a parody of the genre. The laughs here all come from how real human beings react to extraordinary circumstances, and it's character-driven for the most part. Rothman takes all of his science-fiction ideas to absurd extremes, which is exactly how I like it.
This is great news, and I wish Rothman and his crew well. As the rest of the casting falls into place, we'll keep checking back in, and I'm excited to see that the film will be in theaters on the day I turn 47 years old. That's a big number. I will need that laugh.
Untitled Zach Galifianakis/Bill Hader/Seth Rogen R-Rated Comedy opens everywhere on May 26, 2017.