Superficially, Dean Craig’s screenplay for A Few Best Men seems like a lazy re-tread of the formula he used for his best known work, the inexplicably successful British comedy Death at a Funeral (2007). Firstly a thin scenario is established using minimal justification for another extravagant family gathering. This time there’s no deceased at the centre of it all, but then is a wedding really that much different? After injecting a stranger into the mix (it was the vertically challenged Peter Dinklage in Death at a Funeral) it’s then time for audiences to sit back and watch with their sides securely stapled as round after round of calamity ensues thanks to various illicit substances, feeble misunderstandings, contrived pratfalls and the absurdist antics of various eccentric or intoxicated characters. Throw in a sexed-up barnyard animal or two and you’ve got a sure-fire formula for box-office success.
Craig’s screenplay so closely follows the template of Death of a Funeral that it appears to be moving forward on rails, offering very minor variations on a theme as it does so. Director Stephan Elliot, no stranger to divisive and extravagant comedies, even imports Kris Marshall from the earlier film. He’s Tom, one of the moronic best men of David (Aussie Xavier Samuel, sporting a fine English accent) whose whirlwind holiday romance with Australian girl Mia (Laura Brent) sees him heading for the altar in double quick time in Sydney’s Blue Mountains. Simultaneously he must work hard to impress his forbidding future father-in-law, Jim Ramme (Jonathan Biggins), a wealthy politician very closely linked to a sheep in his campaigning.
The performances are perfunctory, yet bordering at times on embarrassing as they strain to invent genuine comedic moments from the paltry inspiration behind Craig’s lazy screenplay. Rounding out David’s trio of best men are Tim Draxl’s Luke as a forlorn recently-dumped lover and Kevin Bishop’s whiny Graham. Both are walking clichés; the latter’s inferiority complex taints every word that escapes his mouth, though his crude best man’s speech does provide possibly the only laugh-out-loud moment of the film.
Faring worst of all amongst the cast is Olivia Newton-John whose performance as the Mia’s mother can best be described as forced. You can almost see her eyes bulging with desire to make her character’s every moment a memorable one. But it’s all to no avail; words can hardly express the pain of enduring a once iconic, if never great, actress imploring an audience to laugh along with the raucous misadventures of idiots.
A Few Best Men sincerely believes itself to be a clever, zany, romantic comedy in which the sight of Sandy Olsen sniffing cocaine with the foreigners is deemed the height of comedic subversion. I was neither convinced nor moved to mirth. Visually too the film flounders; it’s unaccountably, distractingly drab, with the appearance of a midday telemovie. The box office might respectfully disagree but this is one thoroughly unimaginative film, all creaky clichés and outlandish, juvenile pleadings for droplets of hard-earned laughter.