Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Few Less Men (2017) - Movie Review

I really, really wish I would stop jinxing myself. First the whole low attention span thing comes back to bite me with Dickshark, and now I’m forced to reconsider my statement about Australia’s output for this year. I say this because we are once again dealing with a raunchy Australian comedy starring Xavier Samuel… and it’s really saying something when it’s a follow-up to a film that barely anyone liked to begin with. Released in 2011, A Few Best Men is a film that I barely remembered watching less than an hour after sitting through it and what little I did recall made me feel pretty comfortable with my general lack of recollection. But even with how bad that turned out, I won’t say that I was expecting this to be quite so painful. Let’s kindly get this the hell over with already.

The plot: Picking up right after the events of the first film, groomsman Luke (James Helm) has been killed in a freak accident. His best friends David (Xavier Samuel), Tom (Kris Marshall) and Graham (Kevin Bishop), under heavy duress from the deceased’s brother Henry (Ryan Corr), have to get the body from Australia to the funeral procession in London. Hijinks ensue.

Embarrassing is a heavy understatement when dealing with the majority of the cast here. This is because, while the cast is actually pretty solid, everyone here looks woefully embarrassed that they’re in this thing. I can’t recall seeing Deborah Mailman look quite so downtrodden on screen, to the point where her annoyance in dealing with the main cast probably isn’t her acting. And speaking of our lead twit trio, Marshall and Bishop hit their respective singular notes (Perpetually horniness and accident prone to the point of being a walking hazard area) hard in every scene they’re in. It is rarely if ever funny.
Because of this, Samuel actually comes off rather well because most of his dialogue is him lamenting the sorry situation he’s in, largely as a result of Tom and Graham continually screwing up. Sympathising with him is far easier than it should be. Then there’s Shane Jacobson, who manages to one-up his role in The Dressmaker and found an even more farcical role to take on… and he looks like he’s dying on the inside with his “drag is hilarious, apparently” waste of a performance. The one who comes out best though, aside from maybe Samuel, is Ryan Corr who manages to sell his country club member on the outside, Chopper Read on the inside caricature of a hard-arse. He’s honestly pretty funny here, being the only character who consistently gets a laugh.

So, this is a comedy… apparently. If so, this is one of the most strained and fucking desperate comedies I’ve seen in a while. With its set-up of British guys on a screwed-up road trip through the Australian outback, this gives some serious flashbacks to the second Inbetweeners movie. However, this is somehow even worse; as try-hard as that film was, it still had a couple of decent moments in it. Here, it’s just a parade of set pieces meant to appeal to shock humour, only without actually being, you know, shocking. Sure, we get sequences involving a corpse with a raging hard-on, a giant golden penis like this was some attempt to one-up Sweet Movie, a Mad Max party filtered through all of the molly and cross-dressing coupled with possible psychosis among other things, but none of it even registers.
The main group’s bickering gets old really bloody quickly and their interaction with each disparate scene only ends up sucking out whatever humour can be found in it. By Rule of Weird, I should get at least a chuckle out of Shane Jacobson’s Psycho routine, but the characters and tone won’t allow it. Of course, the fact that they out-and-out reference Psycho by name during that scene is one in a pattern of the film explaining its own jokes. It’s not quite as prevalent as in other comedies I’ve covered on here, but the fact that it’s here at all just makes the weak-arse jokes fall even harder.

But what makes the comedy even worse is that, by film’s end, the filmmakers want to justify the heinous actions of the main characters. In yet another attempt to make the parade of dick and fart jokes actually mean something, because just being funny is apparently not good enough for a lot of modern comedies, we get some utter hokum about loving your friends for their faults. Putting aside how bad their respective faults are, from Tom’s constant thinking with his other brain to Graham’s utter lack of forethought, this is complete nonsense. Why? Because several of the jokes shown on-screen up until this point have been about the three of them arguing about whether or not they should just leave their supposed friend’s body behind, complete with a “you’re a better friend to him than me” pissing contest. When trying to justify the idiocy of your own characters, maybe go for a route that doesn’t involve directly contradicting said idiocy.

All of this is irrelevant, though. The wasted cast, the bad jokes, the absolutely abysmal pacing that makes it feel like we’re crawling through molasses just to reach the end of this relatively short film? None of that matters in comparison to the bigger question surrounding this film: Why was this made? The original film barely made a profit, even by Australian cinematic standards, and critics derided it to within an inch of its life. And why wouldn’t they? It had a full scene dedicated to rescuing cocaine bags out of the anal cavity of a ram, all without a single quip about ramming it. You know a film sucks when you actively want lame jokes to happen. With all that in mind, who the hell thought that this was a good idea? I refuse to believe that we are this starved for ideas that we’re now resorting to simultaneously ripping off The Inbetweeners and The Hangover for a second fucking time. With Jasper Jones and Lion still fresh in my memory, this is simply inexcusable.

All in all, a game cast isn’t even close to saving this absolute slog of a film. Bad jokes, bad pacing, a complete fuck-you of a non-ending, all wrapped around characters that are so incredibly unlikeable and yet we’re meant to sympathise with them. Dean Craig, on the off chance that you’re reading this obscure nobody badmouthing your work, please, please, please stop with this shit. We’re starting to pick back up cinematically and we don’t need any more of this to push us back down again.

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