|The Full Monty (1997)
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, Tom Wilkinson,
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Who wants to watch a movie about male strippers? Apparently, lots of people do. Ten years after its theatrical release, “The Full Monty” still holds the record as the highest-grossing British film in history. And before you say that its $256 million box office take is nothing when compared to American films, consider this: “The Full Monty” so captivated U.S. audiences that it was also nominated for an Academy Award. It didn’t win, of course, (“Titanic” walked away with that honor), and it probably didn’t even deserve to get nominated, but the sheer fact that it was alongside films like “As Good As It Gets,” “Good Will Hunting,” “L.A. Confidential” and the aforementioned “Titanic” speaks volumes of its popularity.
Taking a page out of the Blue Collar Comedy Handbook (and no, it wasn’t written by Jeff Foxworthy), “The Full Monty” tells the tale of Sheffield, a flourishing industrial town of the early '70s that saw a sudden decrease in productivity during the big technology boom twenty-odd years later. The closing of the steel mills has left Gaz (Robert Carlyle), along with thousands of other workers, without jobs and questioning their roles as men. Many spend their days moping around job centers looking minimum wage work, but not Gaz. After learning just how much a male stripper act like the Chippendales make for performing at local bars, Gaz recruits his own ragtag group – including best mate, Dave (Mark Addy) and former boss, Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) – to put on a show of their own. The only problem is, in order to make the performance a success, the men must be prepared to go all the way and deliver… the full monty.
“The Full Monty” does an excellent job of straddling between the comedy of the situation and its social importance, and never strays too much on the latter. Despite an expected hesitancy among male audiences, the film is actually a thoroughly entertaining comedy that both sexes can enjoy. Forget the fact that the last frame of the film proudly displays the bare asses of all six men, because that’s the only nudity that appears throughout; save for a subplot involving two of the would-be strippers (Hugo Speer and Steve Huison, respectively) running around town covered only by a red leather thong. Both scenes are tactfully produced and brilliantly performed by the cast of then-unknown actors, who filmed the final sequence in front of a crowd of extras pulled off the streets. The film also acted as a springboard for its two stars, Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy, and paved the way for the cinematic British Invasion of the late ‘90s that is still thriving today.
Who knows? Without the unparalleled success of “The Full Monty,” American audiences may have never been treated to the criminal antics of Guy Ritchie, learned how to “Bend It Like Beckham,” or even known what it was really like to work in an “Office.” And for that, it should be applauded. Sure, the film isn’t exactly Best Picture material, but what it lacks in quality it makes up for in charm (from its eccentric cast of characters to its pop-inspired soundtrack featuring classic dance hits like “Hot Stuff,” “You Sexy Thing” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On”), and sometimes, that’s all it takes to make a hit.
Full Exposed Edition DVD Review:
Greatly improving upon the initial barebones release of the film, the two-disc special edition of “The Full Monty” isn’t going to blow you away, but it does offer quite a bit of background material on the making of the film. The first disc of the set is highlighted by two audio commentaries (one with director Peter Cattaneo and actor Mark Addy, and the other with producer Uberto Pasolini) – both of which are informative but not incredibly lively. Also included is 33 minutes deleted footage, cast interviews and “The Music Machine” (a feature that allows the viewed to skip to your favorite song sequence).
The second disc takes a more production-themed approach to the bonus material with a three-part featurette on the development of the film (“Developing the Script,” “Finding the Director” and “Focus on Sheffield”), a five-part featurette on the actual production of the film (“Anatomy of a Score,” “Stocksbridge Brass Band Blues,” “Song & Dance,” “Editing” and “Translating English to English”), and a short discussion about the film’s surprise critical and commercial success. Also included is the 27-minute featurette, “A Bigger Picture: A Look at the British Film Industry in the ‘90s,” which offers a historical look at the film’s influences. All in all, not a bad collection considering that U.S. fans of the film were previously offered the original U.K. audio track (also included here) as the only “special feature.”