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Staggered

An oddball comedy about a mild-mannered geek who's shafted by his best friend on his stag night, "Staggered" is a likable Brit item that's average multiplex fodder. Good-looking but unevenly paced low-budgeter lacks the smarts to travel very far beyond home base but should tick over in ancillary.

With:
Neil Price - Martin Clunes Gary - Michael Praed Carmen - Anna Chancellor Margaret - Sylvia Syms Graham - Griff Rhys Jones Flora - Virginia McKenna Hilary - Sarah Winman Sarah's Father - Michael Medwin

An oddball comedy about a mild-mannered geek who’s shafted by his best friend on his stag night, “Staggered” is a likable Brit item that’s average multiplex fodder. Good-looking but unevenly paced low-budgeter lacks the smarts to travel very far beyond home base but should tick over in ancillary.

Pic is first feature outing of TV comedy writer Paul Alexander and Simon Braithwaite, brother of producer Philippa and former ad sales manager of Brit movie mag Empire. Sitcom-style humor, peopled by a large gallery of British eccentrics, produces a steady flow of mild gags but doesn’t build a proper head of steam to go the distance as a feature.

TV comic Martin Clunes (who also helms, after experience in legit directing) stars as toy demonstrator Neil, due to marry pretty, middle-class Hilary (Sarah Winman). At his stag party, supposed best friend Gary (Michael Praed) slips a mickey in his beer, and next day Neil wakes up on a remote Scottish beach wearing only his watch.

Bulk of the pic consists of Neil’s efforts to get back to London in the three days before his nuptials, while Gary, who arranged the whole diversion, insinuates himself into the favor of Hilary and her snooty mom (the reliable Sylvia Syms) to get his hands on the bride’s money.

Characters encountered on the way include a Scottish recluse (a winning Virginia McKenna) who only wants to know whether Andy Williams is still alive; a traveling Welsh salesman, Graham (Griff Rhys Jones, working overtime), who’s into suburban S&M sessions; and an apocalyptic medical researcher, Carmen (Anna Chancellor), who curiously proves Neil’s salvation. En route, he also fractures his arm, gets arrested for jewel fencing and provokes a small amount of mayhem.

Though the episodic pic starts well, as a kind of accident-prone reverse road movie, it starts to run out of gas midway as the journey idea is dropped in favor of Neil’s developing relationship with Carmen, and to focus on a cop (John Forgeham) who’s permanently on Clunes’ case. An outrageous dream sequence, in which Carmen performs an autopsy on the still-conscious Neil, sits strangely here.

Best of the supporting cast is Chancellor, as the psychologist with more dark currents than a buttered bun.

The vacant-looking Clunes (one of the stars of the BBC sitcom “Men Behaving Badly”) is OK in the central role, though light on big-screen presence. As director, he’s hit-and-miss, dropping the ball completely in some sequences (the revelation of Graham’s secret; the weak finale) but scoring in others, especially in the early going.

Simon Kossoff’s generally smart lensing is an asset throughout. More music by Peter Brewis would have helped to nudge things along.

Staggered

British

Production: An Entertainment Film Distributors release (U.K.) of a Big Deal Pictures production. Produced by Philippa Braithwaite. Executive producers, Chris Parkinson, Clifford Davis. Line producer, Helen Booth. Directed by Martin Clunes. Screenplay, Paul Alexander, Simon Braithwaite.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Simon Kossoff; editor, Peter Delfgou; music, Peter Brewis; production design, Iain Andrews; art direction, Steve Ritchie; costume design, Ralph Holes; sound (Dolby), Geoff Neate; associate producers, Alexander, Braithwaite; assistant director, Richard Lingard. Reviewed at MGM Trocadero 2, London, July 12, 1994. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: Neil Price - Martin Clunes Gary - Michael Praed Carmen - Anna Chancellor Margaret - Sylvia Syms Graham - Griff Rhys Jones Flora - Virginia McKenna Hilary - Sarah Winman Sarah's Father - Michael Medwin

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