A subpar local comedy receives an even less pleasant sequel that's high on hijinks but low on surprises and laughs.
Serving up more of the same can be a blessing and a curse — and, it can provide a crutch to prop up a flimsy sequel to a subpar gross-out culture-clash comedy, too. When second efforts roll around, fans want more, filmmakers don’t want to stray from a successful foundation and everyone behind the scenes wants a guaranteed hit, but that requires a winning template to begin with. Arriving in Australian cinemas in early 2012, A Few Best Men didn’t boast much more than a blatant sense of outrageousness and a committed cast, with both endeavouring to hold up a flimsy wedding premise yet failing to elicit laughs or sustain its running time. Alas, with follow-up A Few Less Men, unpleasant viewing really does beget more of the same.
When the initial feature ended, David Locking (Xavier Samuel, Spin Out) had navigated Blue Mountains-set nuptial buffoonery in his quest for marital bliss, with pals Tom (Kris Marshall, TV’s Death in Paradise), Graham (Kevin Bishop, David Brent: Life on the Road), and Luke (James Helm, Top Knot Detective) by his side. Picking up moments after its conclusion — recapping the action in the film’s opening — the latter is swiftly dispatched with by a falling rock, hence the less of the movie’s moniker. That leaves the surviving mates to cope with not only with dead best friend, but with his transporting his erection-sporting corpse home to London to avoid the wrath of his gangster cousin Henry (Ryan Corr, Hacksaw Ridge). A plane crash, desert rave, penis-shaped coffin, libidinous elderly woman (Lynette Curran, Deep Water) and lonely country dweller (Shane Jacobson, Jack Irish) all complicate their plans considerably.
Jumping from one antic-laden episode to the next, A Few Less Men isn’t short on narrative hijinks; it is, however, missing any element of surprise. While viewers can easily and reasonably expect to guess that one raucous escapade will lead to the next given both the approach of its predecessor and the path forged by its fellow The Hangover-style efforts in general, knowing how each gag is going to land is a sizeable problem. Screenwriter Dean Craig didn’t tickle many funny bones the first time around, but barely seems to try here, crafting setups so obvious that the punchlines always remain a foregone conclusion, and mistaking playing in offensiveness-skirting territory for providing humour. Pauses for effect and prolonged repetition don’t help, nor does the tendency to restlessly jump from one ill-formed joke to the next. Similarly, basing the entire script around an idea he’s already explored twice — the apparent hilarity of dealing with dearly departed loved ones in heightened scenarios, as seen in 2007’s laugh-inducing Death at a Funeral and in the far less funny 2010 American remake — doesn’t offer anything new, or demonstrate any attempt to.
Indeed, the stretched and hardly striving material saddles director Mark Lamprell (Goddess) with an unenviable task: attempting to make the parade of inevitability both amusing and energetic. Though striking out on the first count is wholly foreseeable, he fares better with the film’s verve. In glossy images that take ample advantage of the Western Australian landscape, A Few Less Men’s enthusiasm is evident, but can’t prove infectious or capable of improving the whole affair. And, while the movie officially clocks in at 92 minutes, and runs shorter without credits and the seemingly obligatory gag-reel, every moment overstays its welcome.
From the returning players to the local additions — Samuel falling into the former category, sporting a British accent but continuing to underwhelm on home turf of late, as he did in Spin Out — the on-screen talent can’t lift A Few Less Men’s fortunes either. There’s enough rapport between the central trio, but not enough substance to any of their one-note characters, even when they’re pondering the nature of long-held friendships or facing mortality. Of the newcomers to the Few Best and Less Men family, Corr struggles to breathe menace down the phone via a weak Tom Hardy impression, Curran and Jacobson are little more than the butt of two of film’s least effective jokes, and the likes of Deborah Mailman (Offspring) and Sacha Horler (Secret City) are thoroughly wasted.
Rating: 1 ½ stars out of 5
A Few Less Men
Director: Mark Lamprell
Australia, 2017, 92 mins
Release date: March 9