A bachelor-party weekend goes predictably awry in novelist John Butler’s broad, intermittently amusing laffer “The Stag.” Though formulaic and cartoonish, this feel-good comedy, featuring an uptight groom-to-be, his alpha-male future brother-in-law and assorted friends hiking in the Irish wilds, is the sort of harmless entertainment that fuels inactive evenings in front of the tube and helps pass the time on long flights. A mid-March opening in Ireland and the U.K. is likely to generate a decent chunk of change, though ancillary is where sales will be strongest.
The script never gives any indication why Ruth (Amy Huberman) wants to marry Fionan (Hugh O’Conor), but the spark-free couple is getting ready to tie the knot, and she thinks it would be a good thing if his best man, Davin (fast-rising actor Andrew Scott, “Sherlock”), arranged a stag camping weekend. Persnickety Fionan, a stage set designer, agrees as long as Ruth’s overbearing brother, irritatingly known only as The Machine (Peter McDonald, also co-scripting), isn’t invited, but of course he finds out and takes over.
Other participants are Simon (Brian Gleeson), whose business debts allow for a nod to Ireland’s economic crisis, and Fionan’s gay younger brother, Little Kevin (Michael Legge), together with his b.f., Large Kevin (Andrew Bennett). It will come as no surprise to learn that The Machine starts off as annoyance personified and evolves into everyone’s help and savior. Equally foreseeable are tensions between Fionan and Davin, who harbors feelings for Ruth, revealed in a shouting match whose placement in the narrative could have been copied from a scriptwriting handbook.
There’s no denying yuks are to be had, especially when carried along by an engaged audience happy to be tickled by the middlebrow antics. Butler aims to play with concepts of masculinity, asking viewers to question what it means to be a guy, what are he-man things, how much affection is “allowed,” etc., though there’s nothing to challenge any but the most entrenched gender-role fascists. An extended nude and near-nude sequence goes on way too long (no one wants to see so many flabby asses for so long on a bigscreen), and surely they could occasionally abbreviate The Machine’s name, at least by dropping the definite article?
The elfin O’Conor acts too much with his eyebrows, but Scott is solid, and Justine Mitchell is a standout in a hilarious small role as a wedding planner. Tech credits look fine, with some nice shots of the Irish countryside.