The Full Monty

on August 15, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
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   An enchanting British comedy of gender politics, "The Full Monty" is an unqualified delight. With its entirely unpretentious portrayal f a group of male buddies whose layoff from a south Yorkshire steel ill forces them into stripping, "The Full Monty" manages a difficult feat: Even as it's unafraid to lampoon the men, it also genuinely and sensitively reveals their insecurities.
   Robert Carlyle (memorable as "Trainspotting's" knife-happy Begby) plays Gaz, who hatches the seemingly nutty plan to launch a striptease act in order to earn himself and his down-and-out friends some much- eeded cash. Unlike the Chippendale dancers whose show inspires him, Gaz and chums like Dave (Mark Addy), ex-foreman Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) and Lomper (Steve Huison) are the least likely strippers imaginable: Dave is overweight and self-conscious, Gerald is nearing fifty, and Lomper is depressed and lonely.
   But soon they're grinding to the tunes of Donna Summer and Sister Sledge in a striptease act that distinguishes itself from others in an important way: They'll strip down to "the full monty"--that is, leave nothing to the imagination. But their plan nearly collapses under a slew of mishaps, miscommunication and even arrests, only to lead to a memorable and hilarious finale.
   "The Full Monty" is a gender-reversed "Striptease" with the comedy intact; it also packs the punch of a "First Wives Club" yet feels more authentic and less vindictive. Because director Peter Cattaneo allows plenty of latitude for mockery, and because his cast members infuse their performances with admirable charisma and pathos, both men and women walk away feeling satisfied--and humming "Hot Stuff."    Starring Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy and William Snape. Directed by Peter Cattaneo. Written by Simon Beaufoy. Produced by Uberto Pasolini. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy. Rated R for language and somenudity. Running time: 90 min. Opens 8/13 ltd, wider throughout August.
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