The Hardy Bucks make their big screen debut in cinemas from today, Thursday February 21. RTÉ TEN's John Byrne hops in the camper van for their Euro caper.
The most remarkable thing about The Hardy Bucks Movie is that it cost a mere €300,000 to produce. That wouldn’t cover the sandwich bill for your typical Hollywood blockbuster or even the daily running costs of a decent Tinseltown litigation lawyer, but it does betray the roots of what’s been one of Irish entertainment’s most endearing success stories.
Coming from the most modest of backgrounds – Hardy Bucks started out as a bunch of mates mucking around on YouTube; that went down a storm and led to the lads developing a series initially for RTÉ web project Storyline, then RTÉ Two and becoming stars – those behind it know how to make the most of a few bob, and they came up with the ideal pitch for their first foray into the film world: send the lads to the Euros.
Last summer, it seemed as though half the male population of Ireland was heading to Poland to see the Republic of Ireland play in what was only their second appearance in the finals of the toughest international football competition on the planet.
Last time around it was Euro 88, Stuttgart, Ray Houghton and all of that. The results weren’t as good this time around, but the drinking was just as massive – which seems to be the only sport that matters to most Irishmen.
As for the HBs, Euro 2012 meant a road trip that saw them (initially in two groups as the Viper got himself sorted with tickets and left the others at home) hit Amsterdam along the way and get into terrible trouble. Even more trouble followed when they reached Poland, but sure there’s no point in ruining the story, which is all about the journey and the jar.
The Hardy Bucks’ strong point is the array of characters that form this group of misfits; they’re like any bunch of lads in any town in Ireland who think they’re great craic altogether when they’re really clueless clowns.
And although bringing a cast of characters on the road is the classic mistake made when a TV show gets a film (it was a staple of awful UK sitcoms-turned-movies for decades), it made perfect sense here given that the Euros came along just at the right time. It also meant that, when they got to Poland, there would be thousands of free extras on hand if required.
Considering the time and financial restrictions, it’s an impressive piece of cinema (I’ll damn it with faint praise and say it’s better than The Hangover), and the only point where it fails is with the script, which barely raised more than a few smiles for me. Sure, there’s plenty of man-boy messing about, but it's not enough to sustain a feature-length film.
I’ve been a bloke for a long time and most of my mates are in the same boat – I know what we’re like when we get together and there are no women about. We're such eejits, really. On that level, The Hardy Bucks are no different to The Inbetweeners or the guys in The Hangover movies. And The Hardy Bucks Movie works just fine, as far as it goes.
Loads of people will love this - the Irish never tire of admiring themselves - but it’s a bit of fun rather than actually funny.