Uncovering Curiosities: John Butler’s THE STAG

Going into The Stag (also known as The Bachelor Weekend), you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s an Irish riff on The Hangover. After all, it features a group of friends celebrating one of their number’s forthcoming nuptials. However, John Butler’s low budget Irish film sidesteps all comparisons by delivering quite a sweet and funny comedy that while never being outstanding, delivers enough good moments that makes it worth your time.

Like the blockbuster Hollywood comedy series, this 2013 film features a crazed future brother-in-law who turns the titular stag weekend on its head. Unlike Mel Gibson hater Zach Galifianakis’ character, Peter McDonald’s The Machine (looking and sounding like Liam Neeson crossbred with William Hurt) is the brash alpha male of the pack and the one who unleashes the fun on Hugh O’Conor’s last weekend of being a single man.

The Stag doesn’t have the slick soulless city of Las Vegas as its location; instead it has the wilds of Ireland as our heroes go on a camping trip to take the ‘Groomzilla’ away from his wedding plans. The Stag could have gone for a stereotypical look at Irish culture in an attempt to pander to an international audience, though thankfully it doesn’t. It keeps things grounded, yet also adding enough hyper-real things to keep the comedy going (the film includes a running U2 gag too.)

The actors in The Stag put in good performances as the characters who are out of their depth as their plans take a turn for the worse. The film also holds its own on a technical level, even if the film does feel like a movie version of your favourite television sitcom – something of a backhanded compliment. The jokes may feel reheated at times, but it seems like we have known these characters long before the film opened which is a testament to good casting.

Enjoyable without ever feeling essential, The Stag will never become a classic comedy, but it will likely find a dedicated following. The script feels more like a draft than a finished product but it does hit the mark on several occasions. Peter McDonald’s The Machine will be the one thing that fans will take away from this Irish comedy and that’s not a bad thing.

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