Monday, 17 December 2018

Swimming With Men ★★☆☆☆

When a film boasts that it is from “the director of Johnny English 2 and Dad’s Army”, you know you’re not exactly going to be in for a treat. If that is a film’s key selling point, then it means they are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel for anything they can use to market the film. Swimming With Men, the latest film from Oliver Parker (who the trailer neglects to tell us also gave us St. Trinian’s 1 and 2, the bastard), is not exactly going to win favour from anyone who doesn’t like any of his previous films. But, if you are the sort of person who likes Johnny English and the Dad’s Army reboot, then you’ll probably have a great time with this.

Maybe I’m being a little cruel. Swimming With Men isn’t anywhere near as offensive as it could’ve been. The film follows Eric (Rob Brydon), a man who is suffering a mid-life crisis and finds new meaning in his life as part of an all-male, middle-aged, amateur synchronised swimming team. With this ragtag team of swimming misfits (including Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter and This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose), Eric learns about the joys of life through new friendships and eventually competes in the world championships of synchronised swimming. Loosely based on a true story, the film really feels like a wetter Full Monty. That’s a poor choice of words, but you get my meaning…

Yes, Swimming With Men is The Full Monty 2.0. It follows the exact same formula of taking a bunch of normal blokes, putting them into a profession that is funny on the surface as we see their out-of-shape bodies and general inability to complete their performances, until they eventually get quite good with practice and we are inspired to believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. Along the way, we learn about the different men’s lives and how this group has changed them. Yep, it’s The Full Monty. But not as good.

In conclusion, Swimming With Men is not very good. Regardless of how unoriginal the narrative is, the whole thing just feels cheap. Surprisingly, the film earned a nationwide cinema release – despite looking and feeling like an ITV special. This does not feel remotely cinematic or benefitting of the big screen treatment. It looks very low-budget, is pretty poorly edited and not particularly well performed or written. It just feels a little uncomfortable.

Still, there are some minor laughs throughout and the whole thing does have a certain watchability to it, despite the aforementioned flaws. At the end of the day, it’s just Sunday afternoon background viewing – it’s not something that should be watched intently. With that in mind, Swimming With Men is ok. But taken as a film, the negatives vastly outweigh the positives. Swimming With Men is a cheap rehash of The Full Monty in a swimming pool, but if you go in with your expectations sufficiently low, you might find a few laughs.

Sam Love

Swimming With Men at CeX

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