The Stag (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/02/2014

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 94 mins

John Butler's debut feature is an enjoyable, light-hearted comedy with strong characters and engaging performances, but the script is largely formulaic and there's a nagging lack of chemistry in the bride and groom relationship.

What's it all about?
Directed by author John Butler (who co-wrote the screenplay with Peter McDonald), The Stag stars Hugh O'Conor as groom-to-be Fionnan (pronounced Fin-on), who's so caught up in micro-managing the wedding planning that his fiancée Ruth (Amy Hubermann) asks best man Davin (Andrew Scott) to plan a stag do that will get him out of the way for a few days. Davin duly arranges a hiking weekend in the country, but there's a catch, in that Ruth insists they also invite her aggressively obnoxious brother The Machine (Peter McDonald), so that he can get to know his future brother-in-law.

The Good
Rather than over-playing it, McDonald pitches his performance nicely as The Machine, coming across as initially over-bearing and bullish, but gradually revealing a (well-hidden) softer side that works well. Similarly, O'Conor and Scott deliver engaging performances as Fionnan and Davin, and there's strong support from Andrew Bennett and Michael Legge as Fionan's brother Big Kevin and his partner Little Kevin, who get an emotional sub-plot of their own with their concerns that Fionan's homophobic father has declared that he won't attend the wedding if they're there.

The script is relatively formulaic and never really delivers any big surprises (there's an entirely guessable and not too convincing revelation in the third act), but Butler keeps things moving at a decent pace and the interaction between the characters is consistently amusing. Similarly, Butler delivers a solid central set-piece, an extended sequence that requires the characters to be naked and stranded in the countryside for a good ten minutes or so, so if the idea of six pale Irishmen running around naked in the cold is your idea of a good time, The Stag is for you.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that Amy Hubermann feels miscast - there's no discernible chemistry between her and O'Conor, which means it's hard to believe Ruth would even date Fionnan, let alone marry him. There's also no spark between her and Scott's character, so their friendship is unconvincing, which has an unfortunate knock-on effect towards the end of the film.

Worth seeing?
Refreshingly low-key compared to the likes of The Hangover, The Stage is an engaging and likeable comedy with sharp dialogue and strong performances, though it doesn't quite deliver its intended emotional punch thanks to a spot of miscasting and an underwritten, unconvincing central relationship. Worth seeing, all the same.

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Content updated: 21/10/2017 22:26

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