You may be familiar with the type of movie where a group of lovable losers get together to do something you wouldn’t expect people like them to do, and therein lies the comedy. You had out-of-shape men stripping in “The Full Monty,” and old ladies posing nude in “Calendar Girls,” and a retired gentleman swimming the English Channel in “On a Clear Day.” These movies always seem to be British, but you will be pleased to know that now the Swedes have gotten in on the act!
“The Swimsuit Issue” is about a group of ordinary men of varying ages and physiques who combine to create Sweden’s first all-male synchronized swimming team. You can see why that’s very funny: They’re MEN, but they’re doing SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING! There really isn’t much to it beyond that. It’s a fairly generic film, but harmless and lighthearted. Hard to believe this and Ingmar Bergman came from the same place.
Our hero is Fredrik (Jonas Inde), currently unemployed and recently divorced, but not a bad guy. He’s the captain of his local floor hockey team, whose national championship in 1985 Fredrik is still very proud of. While his teammates consider the game nothing more than a larkish pastime, Fredrik is intense. His competitive nature even shows up in casual games with his teenage daughter, Sara (Amanda Davin).
No one at the community rec center takes floor hockey very seriously, either, and other groups are always being given preferential treatment when it comes to scheduling practice space. They can’t even take a relaxing dip in the pool without a synchronized swimming team kicking them out — and this, naturally, is what leads to forming a team of their own.
Well, that and alcohol. While celebrating a friend’s bachelor party one night, Fredrik’s floor hockey teammates get silly and make up a spoof synchronized-swimming routine. A video of it is played at the wedding reception to roars of laughter. A rich woman hires them to repeat the goofy performance at a party she’s throwing, and Fredrik sees an opportunity. If they can make some money with it, they can rent their own floor-hockey practice space.
Soon enough, the synchronized swimming stops being a means to an end and becomes an end unto itself. Much to their surprise, Fredrik and his pals are actually GOOD at it, and there’s a chance at going to Berlin for the European championship tournament. (All the other countries, it seems, already have all-male sync teams. Only Sweden lags behind.)
The expected shenanigans ensue. People assume the swimmers are all gay, which concerns one macho member, Victor (Peter Gardiner). A man who actually is gay (Ossi Niskala) sees them perform and wants to join the squad. A team member named Charles (Andreas Rothlin-Svensson), who is Fredrik’s best friend, isn’t as good as the others and is dragging them down. Will Fredrik’s competitive streak damage the friendship?
I ask the question rhetorically. Rest assured, all the conflicts are minor, the conclusions foregone. Director Mans Herngren, who wrote the screenplay with Jane Magnusson, didn’t aim very high here, and I’d say he hit his mark. “The Swimsuit Issue” (“Allt Flyter” in its native land) fills 102 minutes amiably; the performances are pleasant; the jokes are mild and un-provocative. A few more like this and Sweden might give England a run for its money in the Quirky Misfits Do Unusual Things genre.
B- (1 hr., 42 min.; Swedish with subtitles; )