Despite sharing elements with recent Brit comedy Brassed Off - unemployment, debt-collecting, Yorkshire -The Full Monty is, at its core, an engaging, light-hearted lark that doesn't dwell on its serious themes. But that doesn't preclude it from having its share of poignant moments. Kicking off with a '70s promo film that depicts Sheffield as a thriving, prosperous city, we are then abruptly dragged forward into the bleak '90s to meet Gaz and Dave (Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy), as well as Gaz's nine-year-old son (William Snape).
Unemployed and struggling to make ends meet, Gaz comes up with a daring plan. After witnessing the dosh that The Chippendales rake in, why can't he, he argues, form his own group of strippers and go a step further than the baby-oiled troupe by whipping everything off?
As plots go this is admittedly threadbare fare, but thanks to a witty screenplay which skillfully juggles broad comedy with delicate drama and excellent (not to say brave) performances from Carlyle, Addy and Wilkinson, it isn't difficult to overlook the film's shortcomings. Despite a sluggish start, The Full Monty hits its stride midway through, and is a hoot from there on. Gaz, after persuading long-time enemy Gerald (Wilkinson), an ex-foreman and amateur ballroom dancer, to also take part, joins with overweight mate Dave to select the remaining strippers: a suicidal loner; a bloke with a creaky hip joint; and a young lad with no sense of rhythm but an giant todger. It's an unlikely line-up, but thanks to Beaufoy's durable characterisations, you soon find yourself rooting for the guys as they strut their stuff to Donna Summer and Hot Chocolate..
Yes, some of the humour does fall flat, and the thong-sized plot risks unravelling at the seams. But some heart-rending moments - like when Gerald's missus finally discovers that he hasn't been working for six years (he was too ashamed to tell her), or Gaz's fight to keep custody of his son away from his wife - are powerfully involving, while the strip scene itself is suitably raucous. And it's refreshing to see Carlyle in funny mode after his terrifyingly memorable portrayal of Begbie in Trainspotting, here producing one of his most charismatic turns to date.
You could easily dismiss The Full Monty as slight and gimmicky, a Brassed Off with bums. But it's still a crowd pleaser and a thoroughly mainstream Brit com: see it and run the flag up the pole.
Not as slick as Brassed Off, The Full Monty still has excellent performances, an engaging screenplay and an exuberant, spirit-lifting finale.