Sep 102012
 

I suppose it was inevitable; The Hangover was always going to spawn a clone (or six), with slight spins on the concept; we’ve already had the female version of The Hangover with Bridesmaids, but at least A Few Best Men is doing something more interesting with a joint British-Australian production of an ‘everything that could go wrong, does go wrong’ comedy, mixed with ‘fish out of water’ elements. Can the Brit boys calm themselves down so their groom can have the wedding he craves and also deliver a decent Brit/Aus-com?

On a whim, after meeting the girl of his dreams on a backpacker romance, English David (Xander Samuel, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) proposes to Mia (Laura Brent, The Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader); the daughter of an Australian parliament senator (John Biggins), who has big plans for her after the wedding. Due to take place against the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Mountains, David’s friends from back home, ringleader Tom (Kris Marshall, Death At A Funeral), useless Graham (Kevin Bishop, Keith Lemon) and depressed Luke (Tim Draxl), arrive at the wedding as the groom’s family, and chaos ensues.

The real stars and focus on this film are the main two best men to David; Marshall and Bishop. Bishop certainly gets a bigger role to show off his comedy acting skills after his small turn in the painfully unfunny Keith Lemon movie, and while Marshall will never shake off the ‘Nick from My Family’ tag he’s had from years ago, he is still proving to be a great comedy actor as the “bigger brother” of the four, and together the two make a good duo performance to base the film around.

The rest aren’t much to write home about but are at least serviceable; Samuel and Brent as the main couple are just OK as the sympathetic pair whose wedding day is going up the creek, while Draxl just moans over the break-up with his girlfriend and doesn’t do much else. Nor does Biggins (apart from being the interfering dad that’s trying to get the day back on track to appease his mates from parliament), and I don’t really understand overused Australian Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids) being included as Mia’s sister solely for an unfunny, fat-lesbian joke (unless it’s just for logistical reasons) either, but on the other hand, Olivia Newton-John is the standout highlight of the cast; playing Mia’s alcoholic and cocaine snorting mother it’s amazing to see such a pop culture icon (as she’s been since Grease), and someone usually so clean-cut, in this situation.

What’s really surprising with A Few Best Men is how the constant stream of funny gags just keep on coming; it’s really fast paced, in a good way; there’s minimum time for jokes to settle in perhaps, but with the escalation in the decent level of gross-out humour and extreme situations, it’s this rapidness that keeps the film flowing. What also helps is the utterly ridiculous Ozzie slants on famous songs; there’s nothing like seeing a massive 8ft wedding floral arrangement rolling down a steep hill with an didgeridoo influenced cover of Ballroom Blitz to get a chuckle, and I haven’t even mentioned the cocaine snorting sheep yet…

Whilst being similar to The Hangover in both plot and tone, Best Men does enough to distance itself; you can still see the “silly three” floating around the straight-man on his big event day, but the whole cultural shift from the United States masks it, and the differences between British and Australian culture are exacerbated even more by these four British “slackers” integrating themselves into higher Ozzie social circles, when usually it’s just a straight swap of country-to-country, never mind class level.

Notable Australian director Stephan Elliot clearly played a big hand in making this a success; famous for the cult classic Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert, he captures the Ozzie essence with the spirit of the wild Blue Mountains backdrop (literally, since the wedding takes place on a cliff face) as well as attitudes towards the rest of the world, social habits, and the like. Good choice for director. There are a few very obvious and ugly looking CG scenes that distract, but when the rest of the film is better off cinematography wise, it’s worthy sacrifice, and shows Elliott was a very good choice for director.

But the pacing fell apart in the sense that David losing his rag with the other three Brits, only to make up with them about two minutes later, didn’t really work. Not that it’s remit in this comedy film, but any real drama involving the supposed break-up of the marriage between David and Mia is an afterthought; anytime it’s used it just stands out without any real threat of being intriguing or entertaining. The whole wedding-on-a-whim, after a backpacker romance, could have been interesting, but even that only bubbled away with the background or in one or two lines without showing it’s head.

A lot better than you’d expect, A Few Best Men bridges the British-Australian production well, but not without a few hiccups along the way; including, perhaps, too fast pacing. Still, it’s a better than average turn for a Brit-com-influenced foreign comedy, with some genuinely funny highlights, which isn’t too gross-out. Definitely worth catching.

Terry Lewis@thatterrylewis.