A FEW LESS MEN. Xavier Samuel, Kris Marshall, Kevin Bishop. Directed by Mark Lamprell. 92 minutes. Rated MA15+ (Strong coarse language and crude sexual humour).
A sequel to the forgettable 2011 “comedy” ‘A Few Best Men’, ‘A Few Less Men’ is a spectacular implosion of talent caught on camera. A couple of the actors are having a good time (and get away unscathed), but the writing is lazy and unfunny, and the direction is so aimless and bereft of personality, that it feels overlong, even at just 92 minutes.
The plot picks up right where the last film finished, with David (Xavier Samuel, trying a British accent on for size) getting married to Mia (actress Laura Brent was fortunate to avoid having to even cameo). Tragically, one of his best men, Luke (James Helm, replacing Tim Draxl from the previous film) is killed after falling off a cliff (hardly a terrific tourism plug for the Blue Mountains). Alongside his surviving best men, wannabe lothario Tom (Kris Marshall) and simpleton Graham (Kevin Bishop), David promises Luke’s family that he will escort his mate’s body back to London.
You will gauge your patience for the film early – the opening credits appear over an animated rehash of the first film’s events, accompanied by a jaunty score. During this short segment, there are at least three flatulence jokes. Luke’s corpse isn’t even cold before the first jokes about his seemingly indestructible erection are rolled out, a vein of “humour” that flows through the movie right up to the final scene.
Once they have Luke’s coffin loaded into David’s new father-in-law’s private jet, everything is looking good. However, while Tom has a sleazy go at seducing the sole flight attendant, Graham gets himself invited into the cockpit, where he promptly causes the plane to crash (in a cringeworthily low-budget version of an emergency swamp landing). Frankly, I’m not sure that there is or ever has been anyone who, in Graham’s situation, would make the same insane choices he makes to bring about the fateful result. Sure, it’s the big shift that pushes the story into its groove, but why make Graham so thoroughly stupid? His idiocy is both alienating and annoying – you can’t empathise with him, nor can you pity him. There could have been any number of reasons for the plane to crash that were funnier or more logical, but all are foregone with little to show for it.
Now that David and his pals are stranded in the Western Australian wilderness (their flight plan back to London doesn’t make a lick of sense either), they must make their way back to civilisation, dragging their dead friend along with them with apparently limitless stamina. On the way, they have run ins with a cross-section of colourful (read: caricatural) locals. There’s Felicity (Pamela Shaw), an older American who runs a drug- and booze-fuelled annual festival in WA’s outback. Then there’s a dim truck driver (Darren Gilshenan – one of the film’s few bright spots), who offers them a lift to Perth. They meet a harried small-town cop (Deborah Mailman, suitably irritable) who doesn’t buy their far-fetched story, and Mungus (Shane Jacobson, apparently just as confused as viewers as to why he signed on for this role), a quiet local with a secret. The final ingredient is Maureen (Lynette Curran), an older woman who takes an inexplicable amorous shine to Graham. Elsewhere, antagonism is generated by Luke’s psychotic cousin, Henry (Ryan Corr, trying to out-Hardy Tom Hardy with an East London growl and a gorilla’s gait), who comes to Perth when he hears news of David and Co.’s misadventures.
The gags aren’t funny – a couple may elicit an eye roll, but most are immature and nasty. For a comedy, eliciting laughter should be the most important thing. In lieu of that, likable and relatable characters are often a passable substitute, even if the end result is a mildly diverting time. Ultimately, ‘A Few Less Men’ has neither. Its landscape shots look like someone in Screen Australia greenlit this purely to get some of WA’s beautiful scenery into the international market, but then they took a ‘less is more’ approach when it came to making the movie around it. Unfortunately in this case, less is less.
Callum Ryan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out March 9.