John Butler's inoffensive Irish comedy lacks punch
Few genres are more wretched that the British stag comedy: post-Four Weddings and a Funeral, a number of drunken bromances like Staggered fell flat on their faces in cinemas. US import The Hangover cleverly depicted the stag night without showing it at all, just the morning after, but John Butler's Irish comedy focuses on the stag itself, or rather a hiking weekend, and the results are less than game-changing.
Despite a certain lack of chemistry, Fionnan (Hugh O'Conor) is getting married to Ruth (Amy Huberman) but doesn't want a stag: his best man Davin (Andrew Scott) is co-opted to organize a sedate wilderness excursion, although he clearly has feelings for Ruth. Simon (Brian Gleeson) and a gay couple who are both called Kevin are also roped in, but the arrival of Ruth's brother, a wild-living character called The Machine (played by co-writer Peter MacDonald) ensures things quickly descend to electric fence disasters, stoned accidents and predictable nude frolics in the fields.
Stag nights are only funny for those who are drunk: The Hangover correctly recognized that audiences are generally sober, and that finding mirth in boozy antics require both alcohol and camaraderie to be amusing. Butler's film does have some charm, with Scott playing a somewhat different kind of buttoned-down character in comparison to his Moriarty opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC's Sherlock series. The relationships are developed with more sensitivity than they would in a US comedy, but the laughs are few and far between and depend on silly stereotypes and audience indulgence for men behaving badly. The Stag is an inoffensive debut for Butler, but a film on this subject needs a bit more cojones than this meek knockabout.
Limited release from Fri 7 Mar.