Think men's synchronized swimming, and chances are you'll call back Harry Shearer and Martin Short as hopeless pool splashers in a classic "Saturday Night Live" bit. Director/co-writer Mans Herngren's Swedish import "The Swimsuit Issue," however, strives for "The Full Monty"-esque charm in its tale of a group of middle-aged, sad-sack weekend warriors who take up the female-dominant sport to compete for a world championship appearance in Berlin.
While it may surprise moviegoers to discover — as jobless divorced dad Fredrik (Jonas Inde) does from his athletic daughter Sara (Amanda Davin), the guys' eventual coach — that synchronized swimming originated as an all-male endeavor, the feel-good trajectory of the plot is routine formation all the way. The hyper competitive learn personal fulfillment, the proudly macho cop the joys of pedicures, and old notions of sexism sink to the bottom.
And yet, despite the stroke-by-numbers rhythm and low-boil performances, the team's hard-fought efforts — while no Esther Williams-level lollapalooza or Olympics-worthy feat — carry an unspoiled poignancy when finally depicted, and do justice to this oft-mocked sport as an oasis of uncommon buoyancy under extraordinary pressure.
"The Swimsuit Issue." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.