Review: Calendar Girls (12A)

AFTER all the hype about a British film to sit up and take notice of, it came as a major disappointment to discover Calendar Girls is about as unimaginative a movie as I have seen all year.

Based on real-life events, the film is the story of a group of middle-aged Women's Institute members from the Yorkshire Dales who bare all in a calendar to raise money for a hospital after the beloved husband of one of the group dies from leukaemia.

It has all the makings of a good story but falls into the trap, which you can sense after about 30 minutes, of being a one-joke movie.

The thing it should have going for it - the idea of normally respectable ageing middle-class women taking their clothes off in the full glare of all and sundry - is remarkably coy.

No ballsy Full Monty here please, we're British after all!

It is not bailed out by a script that is woeful and a second-half to the film which is nothing short of a disaster.

It is also embarrassingly twee and patronising in its portrayal of British life, in a way that Americans love, but is about as far from real life as humanly possible.

The most fun I had all film was spotting the politically correct points that are randomly rammed down the throat.

Helen Mirren has charisma in abundance and is a fine actress but her 'eee, by gum' bog-Yorkshire accent is about as convincing as mine and Julie Walters is utterly wasted.

To her credit, Walters does bring the film back to earth with an emotionally-charged scene with Mirren after their situation spins out of control when the girls' fame takes them to America.

I watched open-mouthed as the women travel first-class by plane across the Atlantic, slurping champagne in five-star hotels with rooms as big as football pitches in some of the most pointless scenes ever consigned to celluloid.

Many people will no doubt find this an endearing and funny film.

I found it a sad indictment on the sorry state of the British film industry and a glorious chance utterly wasted.

Mono rating: 3 out of 10

Now showing at the UGC Cinemas in Newport and Cardiff