Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 5, 2013)
With 2013’s Stag, we visit the fertile subject of the bachelor party. On the verge of marriage to Caroline (Mayko Nguyen), Ken (Donald Faison) worries about his upcoming “stag”.
Why does the subject cause him anxiety? Because he led outrageous pranks at prior bachelor parties and he fears that his past will come back to haunt him. Thus Ken enters his own “stag” with concerns that he’ll encounter some serious payback. We follow Ken’s party and the various twists that come along the way, as events don’t proceed as he expects.
That’s true for a viewer who goes into Stag blind: they seem unlikely to find what they anticipate. Given the movie’s theme and its promotional campaign, one would assume Stag would fall into the wild and crazy Bachelor Party vein. Shouldn’t a movie like this come with nutty shenanigans and ample nudity?
With the tag line “one stripper, six friends and a pineapple”, those expectations feel right – but they’re wrong. Really, really wrong, as Stag comes across more like an “R”-rated episode of Thirtysomething. It deals more with guys’ midlife crises than the wild bachelor party antics it promises.
Which seems likely to disappoint plenty of viewers, but it doesn’t make Stag a bad movie. Nor does it mean that Stag produces a delightful experience – whatever expectations one brings to it, I think it delivers a moderately entertaining character piece.
One simply needs to go into it with few hopes that they’ll get Bachelor Party 2013. The movie hints at wild antics and shows the aftermath of craziness from prior bashes – like the disgusting pineapple gag alluded to in the tagline – but very little that one could call “wacky” actually occurs, as the movie prefers its character emphasis.
In that vein, Stag becomes a decent little movie. Do we get to know any of the characters very well? Not really, and Ken – the supposed lead – gets surprisingly little attention/exposition. For the guy at the film’s center, he doesn’t find much to do other than pout. He’s almost a MacGuffin: events revolve around him but he doesn’t have much meaning on his own.
While the others receive more screentime and development, that doesn’t mean they make much of an impact on the viewer. We follow their arcs, locate a little mirth along the way and go on with our lives. The narrative feels sitcom-ish much of the time and lacks much in the way of spark or depth.
That said, it’s not bad – at least as far as low-budget flicks of this sort go. The actors don’t stand out, but they do their best with the paper-thin material, and they manage to produce a few mild laughs.
The whole thing goes down painlessly as well. Does that count as faint praise? Sure, but given that I went into Stag with few hopes of anything other than a crude raunchfest, I’ll take it. Nothing about the film excels but it creates a watchable character comedy.