Since ‘Calendar Girls’ is a British comedy about older people who strip down for cash, it draws the obvious comparison to ‘The Full Monty’ by American reviewers. Although both films take place in Yorkshire (‘The Full Monty’ happens in Jarvis Cocker’s hometown of Sheffield) and feature lovable and unique characters,…

‘Calendar Girls’ falls short on substance. It’s amusing and heart-warming, but it won’t make you guffaw like ‘The Full Monty’ does.

For one thing, the blokes in ‘The Full Monty’ are unemployed, while the ‘Calendar Girls’ are raising money for cancer. ‘The Full Monty’ fellows walk the gritty streets of Sheffield to the unemployment office every day, but the women in ‘Calendar Girls’ are comfortable enough to enjoy Tai Chi atop gorgeous, green, rolling hills and leisurely lectures at their local WI (Women’s Institute) meetings about how to bake cakes. Their houses are enormous, especially by English standards.

The two main characters, Chris (Helen Mirren) and Annie (Julie Walters), are adorable together. The film starts out with scenes of them trying not to burst into hysterics due to boredom at their monthly WI meetings. The utterly serious leader of the group brings in speakers on such fascinating topics as broccoli and quilting each month, and the speeches are so dull that they are comical. With playful gleams in their eyes, it’s immediately apparent that Chris and Annie are born rebels. The other women take baking competitions seriously, but Chris prefers to get her baked goods from Marks & Spencer.Since she spends most of her time raising money for cancer research and posing nude, Chris ends up neglecting her husband Rod (Ciarán Hinds) and teenage son Jem (John-Paul Macleod). Seeing his mother reading his x-rated magazine, strip in the kitchen with a bunch of women, and be featured in tabloid news stories, of course, traumatizes poor Jem.

The two best friends have lovely husbands who raise flowers for a living, but tragedy strikes when Annie’s husband John (John Alderton) is diagnosed with cancer. Annie’s pain is exacerbated by the fact that the couch in the family waiting room at the local hospital is falling apart. As a memorial to her husband, Annie wants to purchase a new couch for the waiting room to provide a small bit of comfort for families dealing with loss, but how can they raise the ₤1000 required? Every year, the local WI prints a fund-raising calendar featuring innocuous photos such as churches and flowers that earns the group about 40 quid. Inspired by her teenage son’s pornographic magazine and a Page Three Girl calendar in the local auto body shop, Chris decides to create a sexy calendar featuring middle-aged women.

The idea scares many of the women in the WI at first, but Chris assures them, “It’s not naked; it’s NUDE!” In addition to struggling to recruit a woman for each month, Chris and Annie need to get approval from the conservative WI. “Without the WI name, it’s just pornography,” they reason.

While ‘The Full Monty’ builds up to the nude finale, the actual shooting of the calendar occurs fairly early on in this film. The best scenes in the film are of the production of the calendar and the lead up to the big event. Once the ladies achieve fame (or notoriety to some) and raise loads of money, the film gets a little bit boring and loses much of its humour.