A smash hit in its native France, The Shiny Shrimps (Les Crevettes pailletees) is getting a wide release in the UK. What starts off as a silly, slight comedy proves to have a lot more heart and joy than expected.
When a professional swimmer, Mattias Le Gof, uses a homophobic slur in a TV interview he is sent to coach a gay, amateur waterpolo team as penance. The team, The Shiny Shrimps, are less interested in competition than having fun and Le Gof must overcome his homophobia, and his alpha-male tendencies, to get them to the Gay Games.
For much of its running time The Shiny Shrimps is an odd mix, part Cool Runnings, part The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, that makes it feel like a throwback to 90s cinema. A tale of quirky outsiders who must overcome the world’s expectations of them to succeed – all told with a fun soundtrack and silly set pieces. But sprinkled between the cracks in the well worn cliches are flecks of cinematic glitter that give it just enough fresh energy to rise above.
Is there homophobic violence in a rural setting? Yes.
Is there a fantastic drag performance? Yes.
Are there a lot of naked bums? Yes.
Does the straight man learn a lesson about love and acceptance? Yes.
Is there a performance of Sabrina’s ‘Boys (Summertime Love)’ on top a bus for no other reason than the sheer joy of it? Hell, yes!
But along with all that, there is commentary on how younger and older generations of gay men communicate, the status of the trans community within the LGBTQ+ culture and more.
Belgian actor Nicolas Gob makes Le Gof believably grumpy and narrow-minded without making him a villain (he comes off more aggressively competitive than outright aggressive). Alban Lenoir (apart from having a pair of shoulders to die for) brings some emotional weight to the lightness as Jean, the team’s cool-headed leader. But it is the combination of Roland Menou’s cranky, older Joel and Geoffrey Couet’s young, camp Xavier that really brought a sparkle to proceedings.
Waterpolo may not be the most cinematic of sports making the competition scenes a bit perfunctory, but they do give the film a unique look and set-up.
The Shiny Shrimps doesn’t stray far from the broad, crowd-pleasing boundaries of its premise, instead it delivers all the touchstones you expect with a warmth that’ll bring a smile to your face.
By Chad Armstrong
In UK and Irish cinemas now, for screening details click here.