Not few enough

A Few Less Men
Directed by Mark Lamprell
Written by Dean Craig
92 minutes, rated MA15+
2 stars

The English screenwriter Dean Craig likes to keep his ideas alive and his characters dead. He wrote Death at a Funeral (2007), and its American remake (2010), which means that two of his last three films had a cadaver in a leading role. Make that three from four with A Few Less Men, which begins with a man falling off a cliff who’s then squashed by a huge falling rock, somewhere in the Australian bush.

This too is a sequel – a rehash of A Few Best Men, a comedy from 2011 about three British lads coming to Australia for their best mate’s wedding. That film, directed by Stephan Elliott (Priscilla) was an Australian-British co-production with a budget of $14 million, according to Wikipedia. The box office was $15.5 million, which begs the question: why make a sequel to a film that wasn’t a smash hit first time round, especially one that got such damning reviews?

Craig has said in interviews that enough people thought there was more juice to be squeezed from the three losers in the original film, so here we go again, although without the relatively assured comic instincts of Stephan Elliot. The director this time is Mark Lamprell, whose credits include My Mother Frank, Goddess and Babe: Pig in the City. Lamprell’s technique here it to turn the lights up bright and let boys be boys. If you’re 15 and love a fart joke, here’s your movie.

Xavier Samuel is the generally sensible David, who just got married, although the budget doesn’t extend to us meeting his bride. His pals are Tom (Kris Marshall), Graham (Kevin Bishop) and the unlucky Luke (James Helm), who is now deceased. Tom is a dedicated skirt-chaser (type-casting for Marshall, who appears still to be on Shag Highway heading west, 13 years after Love Actually); Graham is thick and irritating, the kind of bloke who pushes a button on the private jet taking them and the body back to England, causing the plane to crash somewhere in northern Australia. Luke’s brother Henry (Ryan Corr) is a London gangster in pastels – a sort of fey Kray – whose role is to give the plot some tension, with threats of violence. Corr shouts and swears a lot.

There are some laughs in this film, but too few to mention. They’re all from the handbook of going-too-far humour. So the cadaver has an erection that won’t go away; Lynette Curran plays a mature Aussie sheila with a rampant libido; Deborah Mailman and Sacha Horler have brief scenes showing what Australian women think of these tossers; and Shane Jacobson dons a dress for a backwoods version of the Bates Motel. Actually, that part was pretty funny, even if you are old enough to know better. Note the pattern here: the jokes are all about fear of sex, that schoolboy standby.
If it were made with better timing, less blazing light and some real work on the script, the film might have exceeded expectations, but it’s not in that business. This is recycled comedy for a generation raised on much-raunchier R-rated American fare from Seth McFarlane and Judd Apatow – and nowhere near as sharp.