The Shiny Shrimps (15)***

Directors: Maxime Govare, Cedric Le Gallo

Stars: Nicolas Gob, Alban Lenoir, Michael Abiteboul

Runtime: 103 mins

While not based on a true story as such, this well-meaning French comedy was inspired by real-life gay water polo team Les Crevettes Pailletees - the Shiny Shrimps. Co-director Le Gallo was a member and uses his experiences with them as a jumping off point for a funny but ramshackle tale that could have done with a bit more care in the storytelling department.

When swimmer Matthias (Gob) makes a homophobic remark during an interview and is threatened with expulsion by his federation, as punishment he must agree to train the Shrimps or face not being allowed to compete in the upcoming championships. The team are rubbish, and we never actually see them training or getting any better, but off we go anyway to the Gay Games in Croatia.

Matthias isn’t really much of a character, while his training input seems to involve little more than shouting at them, and the film doesn’t do a great job of establishing how he feels to be involved. Initially he’s in it for his own selfish reasons, which is fair enough, but then he starts to care, then he hates being around them. It’s all just a bit inconsistent and under-written so it’s left to the Shrimps to provide viable plot lines - these take in illness, secrets and chaotic home lives, with one member constantly having to pretend to his husband that he’s in business meetings proving especially amusing.

Even so, there are a few too many diversions as the film turns into a road trip and it’s certainly a touch long. While some dramatic situations feel manufactured, complicated issues are handled with humour and a matter of factness, touching on gradations of bigotry, who can say what and trans rights.

Ultimately, The Shiny Shrimps is a movie that survives on its laughs and its message as opposed to particularly well made content. It’s a feel-good crowd pleaser that’s mostly content to play to the cheap seats and while all a bit low rent, it’s funny enough and good-hearted enough to overcome its deficiencies, which is just about enough to get by on.