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IN SHORT: The Biggest, and most highly recommended, comedy surprise of the year. One of the year's best movies.
I did not want to see The Full Monty, for with the exception of Robert Carlyle (who played the lunatic Begbie in Trainspotting) there was no one either cast, writer or director that I'd ever heard of. There are so many of these "small" films that come across my desk every month that I don't see 'em unless there's a reason. I knew of no reason to see this one.
Cranky admits to making an error most grievous, and can only hope that you will not to likewise. For The Full Monty is, without any doubt, the biggest comedy surprise of the year. This story of unemployed steelworkers in the North Country of England is raunchy and raucous and touching. What makes it even funnier is that, in different hands, this story could have sent its audience fleeing to the Prozac ward.
Almost as a nod to the similarly themed, and also strongly recommended Brassed Off, about the only thing still working in Sheffield is the now defunct steel mill's brass band. The center of this story, however, is Gaz (Carlyle), six months unemployed and £700 (about $1300) in arrears in child support payments to his ex. Unless he can raise the cash, he's going to lose custody and the pain this causes him is clearly etched in his face. His best mate, Dave (Mark Addy), fears his wife might leave him, for at that very moment she is part of a howling and drunken mob of women enjoying a show by touring Chippendale's dancers. Which puts the idea in Gaz' head that if the local women would pay big bucks for a bunch of "poofs," they'd pay the same for some "real" men. Into this effort they recruit their former Plant superintendent Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), who hasn't told his wife that he, too, is on the dole. Add three more unemployed brethren and the whole scheme is off to the races.
One problem, though. Most can't keep a beat -- a dance step is a foreign to them as a soccer play is familiar. Add to all that is the fact that none of 'em look as good as the "poofs". They are pasty and out of shape, self-conscious and, with the exception of Gerald, not one of these guys can dance. The moves they know are pathetic. What they think is sexy isn't and, even with the help of tutoring from a stolen Flashdance video, they're setting themselves up for a hideous embarrassment.
And, to put it kindly, they're not all that bright.
About the only thing our band of Merry Men can do which the "poofs" won't do, is go the final, um, couple of inches, and reveal what is euphemistically referred to in the film's title.
What could fall prey to what I've referred to in the past as a bunch of Little Richard jokes, doesn't. While the grim situations they all face at home will get much worse before it gets better, the damned thing is that all the negatives come out incredibly positive. At no time does any cast member play a situation for laughs. They choreograph their moves to some of the best grind music ever turned out by James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Donna Summer and cap it all off with a Tom Jones remake of Randy Newman's "You Can Keep Your Hat On."
But the topper of 'em all is an "audition dance" to the grandmother of all sex songs, "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus" (by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, banned worldwide back in 1970) the performance of which could require theater managers to distribute free diapers to all the adults in the audience who had previously sucked down a gallon of Coke. Warning you will not give the gag away. Consider yourself forewarned.
The Full Monty could find itself blasted right out of the water given the stiff starpower of the summer competition. Cranky will put it very simply: any film which has a line forming this weekend will still be here next weekend. If The Full Monty is playing the local 'plex, see it now before word of mouth puts lines where there aren't any now.
In more emphatic words . . .
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Full Monty, he would have paid...
You will never look at thongs the same way again. Prepare to be very surprised and very delighted.
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