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Calendar Girls review

So, a Brit flick with real commercial appeal. That would make it one of three things: this year's Four Weddings, this year's Trainspotting or this year's Full Monty. A quick scan of the plot, then...

In a picturesque Yorkshire village, best friends Chris (Helen Mirren) and Annie (Julie Walters) live peaceful lives as active members of the Women's Institute - until Annie's husband (John Alderton) dies of leukaemia. As the grieving widow tries to raise funds for the local hospital, she hits on a genius idea: a traditional WI calendar, only each smiling woman performing a chore will be butt-naked. If nothing else, the press will love it.

Based on a true-life story that mixes grit and gags in a way screenwriters can only dream about, Nigel Cole's comedy-drama has 'crowdpleaser' written all over it. This is a tale about small people battling the system (the WI initially balk at Annie's "pornographic" idea); about the importance of friends; and, most of all, how dreams of escape can spin into nightmare territory (a tour of Hollywood inevitably turns sour).

Calendar Girls' box-office credentials are in little doubt - even if its middle-aged protagonists and slightly frumpy tone suggest it won't rival The Full Monty. Slightly more dubious is its quality. Sure, it's amusing and has heartfelt moments, but things feel a little too forced and far too predictable. By the time the feelgood ending arrives, lessons have been learned, wrongs righted and rifts healed.

Still, if that's what it takes to make a homegrown hit, so be it. After all, so few Brit filmmakers seem to have a clue there's even an audience out there, let alone how to cater for it.

It's The Full Monty! With women! Starring Helen Mirren's nipples! Uneven maybe, but just about funny enough and inspirational enough to merit a date on your calendar.

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