The Full Monty - * *

The Full Monty is another smile-through-the-pain working class British comedy. You know the type…after the evils of Thatcherism squash the common man, the undefeatable human nature of the workers shines through. However, The Full Monty should have stuck with what it does best, straight comedy.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and his fellow ex-steelworkers are desperate for work. The steel mill was shut down six months ago, jobs are scarce, and money is scarcer. Gaz needs some cash desperately, as he is behind in his child support payments to his ex-wife (Emily Woof), and she is threatening to claim sole custody of their son.

But Gaz has a plan. Recently, the Chippendale dancers came to town, scoring big bucks from the women in town who came to see their strip show. Gaz figures there’s an untapped market there, and convinces some of his friends to join him as male strippers, daring to bare it all, and show “the full monty”.

The auditions and initial rehearsals for the inexperienced troupe are mildly amusing. As can be expected, the group is composed of some rather unlikely individuals. There’s Gaz’s overweight friend Dave (Mark Addy), the conservative ex-foreman Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), the shy and suicidal Lomper (Steve Huison), the aging but enthusiastic Horse (Paul Barber), and the man with two left feet, but other prominent endowments, Guy (Hugo Speer).

The Full Monty is at its best when it examines the exploits of these unlikely strippers. Unfortunately, it follows the trend of other serious-minded British comedies of late, and mixes in the drama as well. It is in these dramatic subplots where the film grinds to a dreary halt.

In addition to Gaz’s custody problems, Dave is having marital difficulties, Gerald can’t bear to let his shop-til-you-drop wife know he’s unemployed, Lomper is suicidal, and there are other not-so-surprising dramatic twists. If done right, the comedy and drama could have mixed in perfect counterpoint, however, that’s not the case here. The dramatic segments are run-of-the-mill, and are handled in such a disinterested fashion, that they distract, rather than add, to the film.

You can’t fault the actors here. They try their best in both halves of the film. Robert Carlyle (in a 180 degree turn from his role as Begbie in last year’s Trainspotting) shines in particular in the film’s central role.

Director Peter Cattaneo shows some flair with the comic scenes, and although he doesn’t handle the dramatic material well, at least he always returns to the humor in the end.

Even with its faults, The Full Monty is lightly humorous. Definately not the comic romp it yearns to be, but a mildly enjoyable trifle.

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