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The Full Monty

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Full Monty

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: August 1997
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Paul Barber, Steve Huison, William Snape, Hugo Speer, Tom Wilkinson

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Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"Folks don't laugh [at you] when you have a grand in your back pocket," reckons Gaz, a working-class bloke living on the dole in Yorkshire. He has a scheme, and what a scheme, that should raise several thousand for himself and his unemployed buddies.

British audiences may know the term "full monty," but Americans probably will not. The closest American slang might be "buck naked," and where either term comes from remains a mystery. The film's title, THE FULL MONTY, refers to Gaz's crazy idea. After a group of Chippendales comes to their mining town and cleans up, Gaz decides that he and his friends could summon the courage for one night and outdo the Chippendales. His group will take it all off and not stop at G-strings. There is, however, a slight problem of talent and looks. The local men being anything but buff.

The result is a typically zany British comedy dripping with pathos for the workers. One can reasonably view the film as a social satire, but that would be taking director Peter Cattaneo's comedy way too seriously. Still, one of the show failings is that sometimes it cannot figure out what it wants to be and lets it morose aspects dominate at inappropriate moments. First-time screenwriter Simon Beaufoy's script has rough edges that need working out, but the overall feel is of a writer with much promise.

The film opens with arguably the funniest scene in the picture. We are treated to a hokey but real documentary short promoting Sheffield, "a city on the move." Taken 25 years ago, it shows a prosperous Sheffield with booming industry and a good environment for raising a family. The music is so relentlessly upbeat that I thought we were going to see a pseudo-documentary a la the much more hilarious WAITING FOR GUFFMAN.

As soon as the opening credits end, we skip to the present where Gaz, his son, and one of his friends are trying to steal an iron girder from a derelict warehouse. We soon learn that Gaz and all of his friends spend their days at the unemployment office where they wile away their time smoking under the "no smoking" sign and doing all they can to avoid even looking for a job. Only Gaz's ex-foreman Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), who has not even told his wife he was laid off 6 months ago, is actually trying hard to find a position. And when he gets his only interview, his "friends" screw it up. Tragic scenes like this work but only to the detriment of the film's comedic effect, and they would have been better placed in a more serious film.

Gaz is played with resoluteness by Robert Carlyle from PRIEST and TRAINSPOTTING. Although it is an ensemble cast, Carlyle's role is so central that without his strong but vulnerable portrayal, the picture could easily have sunk.

Once Gaz concocts his idea for a momentary ticket out of poverty, he needs two things, a guide and a cast. He steals a copy of FLASHDANCE for their instructional video, and they conduct auditions for cast members. These auditions are among the show's funniest sequences. Some guys are overweight and others are painfully skinny. One guy shows up who can't sing or dance, but who does have an incredible large male organ -- which is stared at in disbelief but not shown. He is hired on the spot along with a fiftyish black guy, who can actually dance, albeit only routines from the 60s.

In another beautiful scene, the guys have just about given up and are back in the unemployment line to collect their checks when one of their dance numbers comes on the loudspeakers overhead. Slowly they start dancing to the rhythm until each of them realizes they must follow through on their big plan.

Until the very end, it is still not clear if some, all, or none of them will actually bare it all. You may even find the ending a bit of a surprise. With a subtext of desperation and anti-Thatcherism, the film tries too hard to deliver a message, but it remains quite funny nevertheless.

THE FULL MONTY runs a breezy 1:30. It is in English so thick with Yorkshire accents and slang that American audiences are doomed to miss parts of it but not enough to detract from the film's comedic punch. The movie is rated R for one scene of male nudity and for some profanity, and it would be fine for teenagers. I recommend this sometimes too bittersweet comedy to you and give it ***.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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