A Few Best Men
Synopsis: A groom travels to Australia to marry the love of his life, unaware that his wedding will spark a clash of cultures between his three best men and the bride's family. From the makers of Death at a Funeral.
Funny as a funeral.
The writing/producing team behind 2007 Brit farce Death At A Funeral transplants most of the same plot points but none of the laughs to Stephan Elliot’s truly awful local comedy, A Few Best Men.
Having learned nothing from their own failed attempt to remake their breakout comedy for American audiences (2010’s Death At A Funeral), both films’ writer Dean Craig, and producers Lawrence Malkin, Josh Kenelman and Share Stallings, try in vain for a repeat lightning strike by serving up yet another story of a portentous family gathering come unstuck by misunderstandings, drug binges and messy poo.
This time they apply the ‘hijinks’ to a wedding scenario, in which Londoner David (Xavier Samuel) heads to Sydney to wed his holiday sweetheart, Mia (Laura Brent). He is accompanied by a ragtag bunch of groomsmen: his BFF Tom (Kris Marshall); the socially awkward Graham (Kevin Bishop); and the recently dumped, increasingly depressed Luke (Tim Draxl).
Suffice it to say, the celebration of David and Mia’s whirlwind courtship is jeopardised by his jet-lagged besties, as they instigate a series of compromising situations for the groom (“It's not what you think!”). The friends’ exploits range from accidentally acquiring a sports bag full of cocaine balloons, to misplacing the prized pet/mascot of the bride’s father, Liberal party powerbroker Jim Ramme (Jonathan Biggins). Audiences can rest assured that scriptwriter Craig seizes on the comic potential offered by the patriarch’s surname to hang both of these plot points on a sheep (and he doesn't let an opportunity for bestial innuendo go unrealised).
Olivia Newton John and Rebel Wilson are sacrificial lambs of a different kind, as (respectively) the surprise wild child Mother of the Bride, and the pretend-lesbian sister/bridesmaid, Daphne. One-too-many cutaways to ‘Australia’s sweetheart’ on a chandelier-swinging coke binge undermine Livvy’s comedic turn, and the swift clarification of the matter of Daphne’s sexuality (It’s okay! She’s only gay to piss her dad off!) makes for an especially offensive ‘gotcha’ gag; a gay panic punchline is off-colour at the best of times, but it seems worse somehow in a Stephan Elliot film. One can only speculate the kind of putdown that the director’s own Priscilla character, Bernadette “Light your tampon and blow your box apart” Bassenger (Terrence Stamp), might have come up with, to counter the prejudices of what counts as a sympathetic Elliot lead today.
Like a bad wedding reception, A Few Best Men is overlong by at least an hour, and the flimsy plot groans under its own weight. In a bid to amp up the flagging energy, Elliot overloads the film with wall-to-wall music: a cornucopia of retro songs, performed by the bored wedding band, works as a proxy laugh track to fill the awkward silence. There’s no internal logic to many of the ‘zany’ set pieces, and the sunset “let’s stay friends forever” ending seems an outtake from an entirely different film. But you’ll be grateful when it comes.
To the writer/producers who might be considering milking their own once-funny storyline with yet more replicant rip-offs: Please stop at two funerals and a wedding. To borrow your own overused phrase: “It’s not what you think!” In reality, it’s much, much worse.
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