Messy Monty: Our Review of ‘The Full Monty (2023)’

Posted in Disney +, What's Streaming? by - June 17, 2023
Messy Monty: Our Review of ‘The Full Monty (2023)’

New this week from Fox Searchlight is the follow up to the 1997 film The Full Monty, an 8 episode limited series of the same name. With all episodes debuting on Disney+ on the same day, the series reunites the main cast of the film. Still struggling to get by in Sheffield, the now old friends still lean on each other as mischief still manages to enter their lives. But there is just way too much happening here with little connective tissue to keep the audience engaged throughout.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) has not changed in 25 years. He’s still very much looking for the next great scheme around each corner while struggling to keep an honest job. His son Nathan (Wim Snape) has now grown up to become, of all things, a policeman, and has made Gaz a grandfather to a physically challenged Ben (Lewis Whele). Meanwhile, Gaz now has another child, rebellious teen Destiny (Talitha Wing), from yet another failed marriage. Destiny may not have grown up with her father around all the time, but she is 100% the same schemer as Gaz ever was, often getting her mates Cal (Dominic Sharkey) and Tabani (Natalie Davies) in trouble with her.

Meanwhile, Dave (Mark Addy) and Jean (Lesley Sharp) are still together. Jean, by the way, a headmaster at a school Dave is the caretaker for. A tragedy in their past has driven a wedge between them though and Jean takes missteps to fill the void in her heart. Lomper (Steve Huison) is now running a cafe with his husband Dennis (Paul Clayton), though Dennis is well aware of Lomper’s past with Guy (Hugo Spear) and is wary when his former dancemate is around. Horse (Paul Barber) is struggling though he refuses to ask for help. Despite numerous health issues and mobility problems, his lack of understanding allows the unemployment services to deem him fit for work, cutting him off from the financial aid he desperately needs. Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) only occasionally pops in at the cafe, and nothing more is really developed there. His pseudo replacement in the group comes in the form of Darren (Miles Jupp), another regular who has become ingrained in the cafe’s culture.

The biggest issue with The Full Monty series is a lack of focus or direction. The series has so much time that creators Simon Beaufoy and Alice Nutter try to cover so many topics and stories all at once, that only a handful of them are brought to a satisfying conclusion. Old age, unemployment, school budgetary cuts, Insurance refusing to honor claims, mental health treatments, suicide attempts, adultery, death, theft, social services, paedophilia and more are all crammed in to 8 episodes with varrying degrees of success. 

Talitha Wing (Destiny) and Robert Carlyle (Gaz), shown. (Photo by: Ben Blackall/FX)

For every character arc that begs for more exploration, like the brilliant ‘revenge choir’ are, there are other stories that it just drops without real conclusions like Dave’s mentorship of a young student dubbed Twiglet (Adien Cook). Something interesting sometimes happens with Miles Jupp’s Darren, including  a budding relationship with immigrant Silvan (Halima Ilter). But that’scut off at one episode until it’s crammed into an overstuffed finale that tries and fails to wrap up all the flailing plot threads  left out there for 7 episodes.

The acting may be the only thing that keeps audiences around long enough to get to that finale. The original crew can still be charming, though the scarcity of Wilkinson’s involvement is palpable. Paul Barber steals the show again as Horse, and absolutely lovable character that never lets anyone in on what’s really happening, his story is fun and heartbreaking at the same time. Of the newer cast Talitha Wing, Aiden Cook and Halima Ilter are all standouts, delivering excellent performances. Wing is centred on so much that she’s basically a lead, and her work here helps keep the series as functional as it can be.

Ultimately The Full Monty is an example of a follow up series that should have been edited down to a follow up[ movie. The 8 hours instead of a movie length 90-120 minutes has not been a service to the creators as they try to cram far too much into the run of the limited series. If anything will keep this audience around, it will be the cast, though with 8 episodes, there will be some times where they may be tempted to tune out. The series runs like one of Gaz’s traditional schemes, fast, loose and all over the place, when all it really needed was the focus to pull one of great things, like perhaps a scheme to dance The Full Monty? 

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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