"The Full Monty"
Exploring the same English working-class woes as "Brassed Off" and "The Van," but with a much more daffy sense of humor, "The Full Monty" is the kind of movie you can't help but love.
Funny and poignant in a way that doesn't make us cynics sick to our stomachs, this low-budget import tells the slightly twisted tale of half a dozen unemployed steel mill workers who see their wives shelling out cash by the fistful for a traveling Chippendale's show and figure there's money to be made in stripping.
Of course, these guys are nobody you'd want to see naked, which is the film's central joke (the title is Brit slang for taking it all off).
Robert Carlyle ("Trainspotting") stars as Guz, a seemingly irresponsible, divorced, absentee father who is desperate for work to prove he can support his son.
He's the mastermind behind this ridiculous scheme that he somehow manages to sell to a few desolate and out-of-work friends, who are either overweight, nerdy or middle-aged -- not exactly the Muscle Beach crowd.
But they're each at the end of their ropes, so with the only other option being another hopeless day pounding the pavement, they reluctantly begin rehearsing for a show they hope they'll never have to go through with.
As you would expect, there are plenty of laughs to be had at the expense of these sad-sack strippers as they nervously, unenthusiastically and repeatedly dance (without a hint of rhythm) and undress (eww!) in an abandon factory to get ready for their debut. Those kind of sight gags are expected.
What makes "The Full Monty" a sure sleeper hit are scenes like the one in the unemployment line when the guys unconsciously start swinging in time to one of their rehearsal songs coming over the P.A.
Later they get arrested at the factory for indecent exposure. Naked and ashamed, they sit on cold metal chairs in the police station while the cops review a security tape of their "performance."
In the middle of this embarrassment one fellow looks at the tape and complains to another, "You're ahead."
Sprinkled in with all this is the inevitable poignancy, spooned out in small doses of emotional problems each of these men face. One hasn't told his wife he's unemployed. Another is impotent. Yet another has an invalid mother and may be gay.
Sappy to be sure, but none of these personal ills escapes being barbed by the script, which treats even the most serious moments with a suppressed snicker.
Full of hilarious observations regarding the fellas' lack of qualifications for this line of work ("Anti-wrinkle cream there may be, but anti-fat bastard cream there is not!") and tiny gems of dialogue that only make sense in context ("He's got gnomes!"), "The Full Monty" snowballs toward an inevitable climax in which the whole town turns out to see a show they know they'll never forget.
There are no surprises in this picture, and at times it tries a little too hard to be meaningful (especially the soundtrack). But this is one of those rare movies that really is impossible not to like. I'd seen the last 30 minutes twice before I saw it all the way through, and I didn't understand what the buzz was all about.
But now I'm sitting here humming the Tom Jones song they strip to at the end of the movie while I write this review. "The Full Monty" is comedy that sticks to you for weeks. If you don't laugh throughout this film, you're just not human.