Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Stephan Elliott
Stars: Xavier Samuel, Laura Brent, Tim Draxl, Kevin Bishop, Jonathan Biggins, Olivia Newton-John, Steve Le Marquand, Kris Marshall, Rebel Wilson.
In the early ’70s Australian filmmakers gave the British public a taste of some uniquely Australian larrikin humour with films like The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, which traded on crude cultural stereotypes and distinctly Ocker humour. Now nearly four decades on, the British have returned the favour, exporting some boorish British boys behaving badly down under.
With plenty of raunchy and politically incorrect humour A Few Best Men is in the same vein as Bridesmaids, The Hangover, and their ilk. The film is best described as an Australian variation on the black comedy Death At A Funeral, except this one replaces the funeral setting with a lavish wedding. The reason this Australian comedy shares a number of similarities with that hilarious British comedy is that Dean Craig wrote both. Following a whirlwind holiday romance on an idyllic Pacific island, David Locking (Xavier Samuel, from The Lucky Ones, etc) announces to his best friends that he is getting married to Mia (Laura Brent, from Chandon Pictures, Wild Boys, etc). Furthermore, the wedding is going to take place in Australia at the expansive Blue Mountains home of her wealthy parents. “Haven’t you seen Wolf Creek?” one of his friends asks.
David heads down under with his three best friends Tom (Kris Marshall), the lovelorn Luke (Tim Draxl) and the nervous and insecure Gordon (Kevin Bishop). The wedding is set to take place at the lavish country house of the bride’s father, powerful politician Jim Ramme (Jonathan Biggins, recently seen as former PM Paul Keating in the comedy series At Home With Julia, etc). But the wedding is far from smooth, as Tom, Gordon and Luke cause havoc. Their drunken and drug-snorting antics threaten to derail the marriage before it even takes place and test the limits of their friendship. There is also some nonsense involving a prize-winning ram that suffers some indignities, a runaway floral arrangement, and a crazed drug dealer (Steve Le Marquand) who comes looking for revenge after the boys accidentally steal his haul.
A Few Best Men is Stephan Elliott’s sixth feature film, but it is also his first local film since his misguided Welcome To Woop Woop, which was largely derided by critics. Best known for The Adventures of Priscilla, Elliott knows how to deliver a crowd-pleasing comedy, and A Few Best Men delivers. However, the humour is fairly hit and miss, although it hits targets more often than it misses. The humour is broad, with some gross out humour, lots of slapstick, plenty of scatological moments, and even some funny bits involving a prize ram. The film deals with the clash of cultures, mateship, broad stereotypes and family issues. Although tightly scripted by Craig, Elliott has ensured there are plenty of moments of improvised humour too.
Elliott keeps things moving at a brisk pace, aided by Sue Blainey’s brisk editing. Technically the film is well done, with fine contributions from production designer George Liddle, and costumes from Oscar winner Lizzie Gardiner, a regular collaborator of Elliott’s. Stephen F. Windon’s cinematography captures the beauty of the Blue Mountains settings.
Elliott has assembled a strong cast, who bring the characters to life. Cast against type as Mia’s mother, Olivia Newton-John seems to be enjoying herself immensely here as she trashes her sweet image and reputation. And Marshall’s immature character is almost a carbon copy of his role in Death At A Funeral. Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids, etc) scores, and effortlessly steals scenes as Mia’s sister Daphne, who pretends to be gay to upset her conservative father. And Samuel is well cast as the increasingly flustered groom who sees his wedding going downhill thanks to the efforts his three best men.
A Few Best Men may not to be to everybody’s taste, but those who enjoyed Death At A Funeral, The Hangover and Bridesmaids will certainly enjoy this over the top comedy.