A Few Best Men

Author: Dean Craig
Genre: Comedy
Storyline: 7
Dialogue: 9
Characterization: 7
Writer’s Potential: 8

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Logline:

An Englishman takes his three best friends to Australia for his wedding, and they wreak havoc on the bride-to-be’s family.

Synopsis:

DAVID (30, good-looking) squeezes on a tube train in London, toting a huge pack that suggests he’s just returned from a long trip. When the train comes to a stop, the size of the pack prevents David from easily getting off the train. The moment he hits the street, rains starts to pour. Enraged, David strips naked the instant he gets into his apartment, not knowing his friends have thrown a surprise party. Later, David’s trying to get over the embarrassment with the help of his best friends, TOM (30, lanky, a dorky wannabe alpha-male), GRAHAM (30, a hypochondriac), and LUKE (30, crippled with depression after a bad breakup). David tells them his trip to Australia changed his life: he fell in love with a local girl, and he’ll be headed back to Australia to marry her. His friends are stunned, but they’re excited about the wedding — until they find out it’ll be in Australia, at his fiancée’s family farm. None of them want to travel to Australia. Their lack of support angers David. Reluctantly, they all agree to go with him.

Three months later, David prepares for the trip. He packs a special DVD labeled “For Mia” into his suitcase. Tom barges into the apartment with a camcorder, already getting started on the wedding video. Graham enters David’s flat with a Hitler mustache. When the others mock him, Graham insists mustaches are “in,” and it’s not his fault this is the way his mustache naturally grows. They get into the cab, and the driver gives Graham the stinkeye. As they work their way through the airport, Graham panics about what Australia will be like. At a layover in Bangkok, Luke desperately tries to call his ex-girlfriend. Graham gripes about David choosing Luke to give the best man speech. On the next plane, the boys are exhausted. When they finally land, David’s fiancée, MIA, meets them at the airport. David introduces her to his friends — Graham trying to explain away his Hitler mustache — as Mia tries to find a way to squeeze them all into her Jeep. Tom tells her they’ve rented a car, so David and Mia agree to meet the others at the farm.

Graham drives the rental car, but he heads in the wrong direction. He tells the others he wants to pick up some weed for David’s “stag night” from a dealer he found on Craig’s List. RAY, the dealer, lives in an ancient trailer in the middle of nowhere. He has some pretty intense anger issues. Graham brings his black sports bag with him into the trailer. Ray insists that they stick around and smoke a joint before they leave, so they don’t return later complaining about the quality of the merchandise. While Tom uses the bathroom and Luke waits in the car, Ray opens up to Graham, revealing a needy side that disturbs Graham. Graham notices a black sports bag loaded with cocaine-filled condoms and a gun. Ray tries to sell him the cocaine, but Graham turns him down. Tom gets out of the bathroom, and Graham makes quick excuses to leave, accidentally taking the wrong black sports bag. Meanwhile, Mia’s parents — JIM and BARBARA — show him around the farm, which includes their prize goat, PERCY. Jim tells David this will be the biggest wedding their little town has seen, making David even more nervous.

When the boys arrive at the farm, David introduces them to Jim, Barbara, and DAPHNE (Mia’s attractive younger sister). At the sight of David’s happiness, Luke bursts into tears and hides in the bathroom. Over lunch, Tom and Graham try to make awkward small talk, inadvertently insulting the family’s religion and lifestyle. David takes them aside and explains how to behave. He doesn’t want to go overboard on his stag night. Tom reassures David, but they end up at a roughneck bar, getting smashed on heavy Australian beer. They return to the farm, roaring drunk, and David decides to show them Percy. Meanwhile, Tom lets Luke know about a rumor that his ex’s new beau has no penis. This depresses Luke even more. In the morning, while Jim stresses about the wedding arrangements and Daphne helps Mia get into her dress, David wakes up to discover Percy in his bedroom, gnawing on an armchair, the word “GOAT” scrawled on its side in black marker. Meanwhile, Tom wakes up naked next to Graham, who wears a “gimp” mask (a gag gift for David) when Barbara barges into the room, awkwardly assessing the situation. David makes excuses, sends her away, then yells at his friends about Percy, demanding that they wash Percy and return him to the barn while he prepares for the wedding. The boys do nothing with the goat. Graham shaves off his Hitler mustache before going into his bag to get his suit — and finding all the cocaine. Tom orders Graham to call Ray and reason with him. Pointing out how unreasonable Ray is, Graham makes Tom call. Tom has trouble finding cell phone reception, so he wanders outside to find a better signal. He finally gets reception, but he gets Ray’s answering machine. Graham orders him to leave a message. He leaves a polite message.

David, Mia, and the family prepare for the wedding. David tries to calm his nerves. Luke calls his ex to ask about the rumor, but her hostility and refusal to answer the question upsets him. He starts drinking early and is quickly hammered, to David’s consternation. Tom helps Graham find a suit, since his was packed in the bag at Ray’s. The closest suit to fitting him also itches. David asks Tom to be the one to play his “For Mia” DVD when David does his speech later. Tom agrees. David is livid when he finds out they haven’t dealt with the goat yet, but there’s no time now. The wedding ceremony goes off without a hitch, until Luke passes out, dragging Mia and the reverend down with him. Despite the problems, the family and guests are understanding. David puts Luke to bed and orders Tom to give the best man speech.

David apologizes to Mia, who’s very understanding and loving. Ray listens to the message from Tom. The phone keeps breaking up, making Tom’s innocuous message sound very threatening and hostile. Enraged, Ray searches through his bag — and finds Graham’s wedding invitation. He picks up the shotgun and sets out for the wedding. Frustrated and itching, Graham lashes out at a small child. Tom approaches and instructs him to give the best man speech. Graham’s frustration increases — he has ten minutes to prepare a speech. Tom gives Graham some suggestions on possible topics, like the way they all assumed David was gay when they first met him, or a joke about how Australia started as an English penal colony. Tom gives Graham a sheet of paper with the speech notes written down on it. Graham gets so nervous, Tom decides to break into Ray’s coke stash to take the edge off and help Graham relax in front of people. Tom cuts Graham a comically huge line, which instantly affects him. Graham goes out to give the speech, and now he’s both nervous and overly chatty. When Graham consults the notes Tom gave him, he finds nothing but a cartoon drawing of a penis. Graham’s forced to ad lib, starting with the jokes about Australia’s history (which don’t go over well) before easing into the story about thinking David was gay. He makes such a compelling case about David’s homosexuality that Jim and Barbara believe it and start worrying.

After David yells at Graham, and Graham attempts to explain the speech to Jim and Barbara, Daphne comes to console him. She’s the only one who found the speech funny, and she flirts with him. Graham feels optimistic. Jim learns that Percy is missing. David overhears this and yells at his friends for not handling the goat situation. David can’t attend to it because he has to do the first dance. David asks Mia if they’ve found Percy. She says Jim suspects neighbors who have had their eye on him for awhile, and Jim’s so angry he’s considering going after them with his shotgun. David worries, especially when Jim calls for the Chief Inspector, a guest at the wedding. Tom and Graham find the goat has eaten the cocaine-filled condoms. Panicked, they feed the goat laxatives to try to get him to excrete the condoms. He soon does, but not all of them. Graham is forced to stick his hand up the goat’s rectum to retrieve the remaining condoms. David shows up just as he’s starting this. Tom explains about the stolen cocaine, and David agrees this is the only option. Luke stumbles into the room and finds Ray’s gun. He threatens to shoot himself. David talks him out of it, but the gun accidentally goes off, grazing Graham, who panics. Mia’s the only one who hears the gunshot over the music. She investigates and stumbles on the insanity with the goat and the gun and the cocaine. She’s livid and starts to worry that she made a mistake. David lashes out at his friends for their irresponsibility and selfishness. They agree to rally and take care of the Percy situation.

David and Graham go downstairs to bring the goat, which Tom and Luke will lower, back to the barn. On the way, they’re stopped by the Chief Inspector, who asks them a series of questions with increasing suspicion. They panic and give horrible answers to the questions. Through the window, they see the goat being lowered. The Chief Inspector lets them go, not as suspicious as he seemed. They quickly rush the goat back to the barn, and Graham vomits from the stress. On his way back, Ray pulls a gun on Graham and demands his cocaine. Tom witnesses this. Graham manages to talk Ray out of it by playing on their supposed friendship. He agrees to take Ray out to dinner, and Ray agrees to help clean the bullet wound. Tom smashes a lamp over Ray’s head and drags him to a closet. Jim is mystified as to how Percy got out of the barn and magically reappeared, but he’s pleased. He apologizes to David for suspecting him. David gives his speech, and Tom pops in the DVD and hits play — but it’s the wrong DVD. This one is from his camcorder, and it features a drunk David miming sex with the goat. Jim and Barbara are enraged.

David tries to talk his way out of it by explaining that, while they did get a little out of hand, they’re not exactly criminals. Immediately thereafter, Ray bursts into the reception area firing his shotgun in the air, demanding his cocaine. Ray finds Graham and orders him to come back with him. David tells Ray if he’s taking Graham, he’ll have to take him, too. Ray’s okay with that, to David’s surprise and fear. Luke and Tom also stand up for Graham, when the Chief Inspector arrests Ray. The four friends, having stood up for each other, are in a better place — but David’s still in hot water with Jim, Barbara, and even Mia. Tom appears with the proper DVD, which features a montage of photos from David’s trip with Mia. Seeing them fall in love through sequential photos, Mia and her parents are profoundly affected. Feeling better about David, Mia forgives him for ruining the wedding. Jim and Barbara support the new marriage. Impressed that he got shot in a coke deal gone bad, Daphne asks Graham for his number. Luke calls his ex one last time to apologize for his obnoxious behavior. He’s elated to hear, definitively, that the new boyfriend does have a penis.

Comments:

A Few Best Men is a fast-paced, funny comedy that borders on farce. It has a number of amusing gags and extremely funny dialogue, but it does suffer as a result of its off-kilter narrative structure and thin characters. As written, it merits a consider.

The story’s “laughs first, story second” approach yields a narrative with a very loose, rambling structure. Although the comedic tension increases with each scene, the story itself doesn’t build or develop so much as loosely string together all the gags based around the vague structure of a wedding. The first act sets up the characters and the main comic scenarios — the importance of Percy the goat and the drug deal with Ray — while the second act breezes from one funny scene to the next. In the third act, these comedic scenarios do reach their boiling points and explode into chaos, but the story doesn’t resolve so much as it peters out, realizing its goat and cocaine jokes have finally run their course.

This lack of narrative thrust occurs because the characters are rarely in any real jeopardy. Much of the comedy comes from the characters’ fear of getting caught, rather than the actual danger of getting caught. The Australian family has a surprising amount of trust — which, itself, is played for absurd laughs — but the fact that the script is wall-to-wall comedy means the writer has created a universe where their bizarre antics have no real consequences. Maybe this is a moot point because it’s still funny, but the overall narrative and characters might come across stronger if the writer added some legitimate jeopardy into all the wackiness.

The writer introduces the central foursome quickly and without much complexity: David the straight man, Tom the misguided leader, Graham the neurotic, and Luke the depressive. Although they don’t have much depth, the writer understands how easily these comic archetypes play off of each other, and he exploits it about as well as anyone can. None of them go through any major transformations — not even David, the ostensible lead — and their sudden bonding in the last few pages feels tacked-on, but the group is funny together, and the writer’s great dialogue enlivens characters that could have been boring clichés.

It’s the Australian family that’s the real problem here. The writer never puts David and Mia together long enough to give a sense of how much they love each other — in fact, Mia barely figures into the story at all, except to serve as a reminder that David should be annoyed at his friends. Similarly, Jim and Barbara don’t do much beyond reacting to the chaos unfolding during their wedding. It would be nice if all these characters had a bit more screen time, not just to give them more depth, but to give a better understanding of what’s really at stake for David.

Despite the story and character issues, the script is very funny. A capable director might be able to mine more jeopardy and suspense than what appears on the page, and a solid cast might fill these characters with the pathos and dimension they deserve.

Posted by D. B. Bates on February 4, 2010 11:14 AM