It's hard to undervalue The Full Monty's importance in revitalizing English cinema in the 90s, especially as far as its worldwide acclaim was concerned. 90s British cinema was already going through a bit of a renaissance with the worldwide critical and box-office successes of harsh and brutal dramas like The Crying Game and Trainspotting.
The Full Monty offered relatively lighter fare while still being honest to the plights of its unemployed working class characters, practically creating an entire sub-genre that's popular even today, 17 years after the film's release.
The Full Monty formula takes an impoverished British locale, usually underrepresented in British TV or cinema, full of conservative and patriarchal characters, and pulls them out of their comfort zone by injecting a (Usually sexually) liberal element they'll have to deal with either because they're desperate to better themselves economically or they have to accept their family members as they really are.
Billy Elliot was about a boy who wanted to become a ballet dancer while growing up in a tough mining town. Kinky Boots was about a shoe factory that had to diversify by producing boots for drag queens. Calendar Girls was about a bunch of senior women living in the countryside who decided to pose nude for a calendar in order to raise money. Even the upcoming Pride is about conservative miners who have to find a way to embrace the gay community who are trying to help their cause. I'm sure you can think of some I've missed.
These films are crowd-pleasers, there isn't any doubt about that, but they're almost never condescending to their audiences. They're sweet without being saccharine, sour without being miserable. They usually found a delicate balance between drama and comedy.
Which brings us back to The Full Monty, which might still be the best example of this style. Impeccably acted, paced and balanced, it became the biggest box-office hit in Britain as well as a worldwide hit upon its release in 1997. It even got nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and won Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score. For a small film about six unemployed steel workers trying out male stripping in order to score some cash out of desperation, this was quite an achievement to say the least.
Stories about an underdog or a group of underdogs going against a mission that's way out of their league only to succeed brilliantly at the end are a time-honored Hollywood tradition. The Full Monty takes this popular mold and brings the characters' conflicts and goals down to a more relatable level.
Gaz, the character who comes up with the stripping idea, played by Trainspotting's Robert Carlyle, is not doing so because he wants to impress the girl of his dreams or prove himself to the world. He just wants to regain the love of his son and perhaps feel like a complete man again. His best friend David (Mark Addy) wants to get over his weight issues in order to feel physically wanted by his wife. Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) is a proud workingman who just wants to feel useful again.
Their goal is not to win some kind of world championship competition and score a million dollar prize, but to make some money to get by. In the end, the true motivation seems to be to simply entertain the citizens of this impoverished town so they could forget their troubles for a couple of minutes. Through such a relatable screenplay and the group of consummate professionals bringing it to the screen, the relatively minor conflicts of the story becomes that much more emotionally involving and captivating.
Regardless of any intellectual dissection of the subject matter, as a straight male, I have to give any movie credit for making me feel giddy upon watching six men going full monty (completely naked) during its final ten minutes.
Without a doubt this is the best version of The Full Monty you will get to see on home video. This is a beautiful presentation without any visible video noise or scratches. However, I couldn't help but feel like the resolution was a bit soft at times. Especially during long shots, the characters seemed blurry, as if upconverted from a DVD. This reaction comes from the film projected 120" on my screen. On my 37" HDTV, everything looked perfect.
Curiously, there are two DTS-HD 5.1 tracks, one American, one British. The only difference I could find was the occasional replacement of regional slang dubbed with more universally recognizable words. Otherwise, both tracks offer clean dialogue in the center until the many disco songs from 70s give your system a workout. The surround tracks don't get much work but the fun you'll get out of the music makes up for it. There's also a 2.0 Stereo track offered, as well as a 5.1 track in French and a 2.0 track in Spanish.
Apart from hopping on a time machine and going back to the film's production, the insane amount of extras offered on this Blu-Ray will get you closest to the behind-the-scenes of The Full Monty.
Audio Commentary by Peter Cattaneo and Mark Addy: This is a very informative commentary that delves into the actual history of the film's location and the many details that went into the casting, filming, testing… The track mostly consists of director Cattaneo talking.
Audio Commentary by Uberto Pasolini: The film's producer gives some insights and context into the film's story and production in a monosyllabic fashion. If you have time for only one commentary, I'd pick the one from the director.
Deleted Footage: A whopping 33 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes. Some of them are interesting but most of them are too rough to get much context.
The Cast: Very brief interviews with the main cast that clocks in around four minutes total.
Original Publicity Campaign: We get tons of trailers, TV spots and a brief EPK that was meant to promote the film.
Music Machine: A pretty pointless feature that skips to musical scenes in the film.
Development: This is a 23-minute feature that covers the development of the film, everything from the screenplay, finding the director and securing the location. Producer Uberto Pasolini relays the details.
Production: 43 minutes of interviews about the film's score, the brass band included in the film, editing and even a feature on how the American version with easier-to-understand slang was made.
The Success and its Aftermath: The cast and crew talk about how much they were surprised by the film's success.
A Bigger Picture: Subtitled "A Look at the British Film Industry in the 90s", this is the feature you should watch if you only have time for one. The producers and directors of the era discuss the 90s renaissance of British cinema. It's a crash-course on an important part of recent film history.
The Full Monty endures as a crowd-pleasing dramedy that created an entire sub-genre while still maintaining its freshness. This Blu-Ray packed with extras and the best presentation of the film available on home video is a must-buy for any of its fans.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com