Title: The Stag
Director: John Butler
Major Players: Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Peter McDonald
Out Of Five? 3
Film makers like to think they know when they’re on to a good thing. It probably accounts for The Hangover III being made, when it really should never have got off the starting blocks. But stag – and hen – weekends are nearly always good box office fodder, which is why makers keep coming back to them. And, of late, they’ve been increasingly outrageous and crass. So step forward, with a smile on its face, The Stag ……
Fionan (Hugh O’Conor) is getting married but is less than keen on having a stag: he’d rather go to the bride’s hen, and that’s not because he fancies the bridesmaids! His bride, Ruth (Amy Huberman) has other ideas and persuades his best friend and the best man Davin (Andrew Scott, aka Sherlock’s Moriarty) to arrange a walking weekend for Fionan and some friends. But there’s one proviso. She wants her brother to be invited. Everybody calls him The Machine. And nobody wants him to come.
So the stage is set for some male bonding, some life lessons to be learnt and some revelations – some of which are obvious, some less so. And it’s all done with plenty of cheeky, smiling Irish charm and good humour, even when the going gets slightly tough and, by all accounts, rather cold. You know right from the outset that it’s going to be a humorous journey, as one of the lead characters walks through Dublin in the rain to the backing track of You Are My Sunshine.
The film bills itself as asking questions about masculinity and its place in the modern life, so you expect answers. In truth, the questions are quite lightweight and the answers don’t have much depth either. That’s not because it’s a comedy, but because it’s written very much to a formula and you just know that, despite all the arguments and the lack of clothes and food (of course they end up naked – it’s a stag!), everything will turn out fine in the end.
The only question in your mind is whether the wedding will actually happen in the first place. It becomes clear early on that Davin is in love with Ruth. The only stag who doesn’t realise it is Fionan himself and it takes most of the film for him to find out. But there’s so little chemistry between the couple that you keep wondering why they’re getting married and when you find out that Ruth used to date Davin, you can’t understand why she dumped him in the first place!
There’s plenty of charm on show, especially of the Irish variety, and lots of laughs, most of which are at the expense of the group, who are completely out of their comfort zone in the country. Inevitably, they have to purchase all the necessary kit, which produces one of the funniest sequences, when they all find themselves zipped inside a tent in the camping shop. There’s a whiff of Father Ted getting lost in the lingerie department and the thought that a sprinkling of Graham Linehan’s more acerbic pen might have produced something sharper is inescapable.
Essentially, The Stag is an old-fashioned comedy in a modern setting. It’s likeable and, at times, loveable and it’s hard to resist such an endearing cast. As a change from the likes of The Hangover, it’s refreshing, but as a film that sets out to tell us something about modern masculinity, it’s in danger of taking itself far too seriously.
The Stag is currently at Vue cinemas around the UK.