This is the story of The Shiny Shrimps, a gay men’s water polo team with the aptitude of a camel. When champion swimmer Matthias (Nicolas Gob) is filmed using a homophobic slur he’s made to coach the team before he can compete again, but is his expertise enough to help the team make a splash at the Gay Games in Croatia?
The Shrimps include team captain Jean (Alban Lenoir) who’s secretly facing cancer, veteran activist Joël (Roland Menou), Cédric (Michaël Abiteboul), who struggles with being away from his husband and two young children, and new team member Vincent (Félix Martinez) who’s still working out who he is.
Based on a true story this is something like Eddie the Eagle meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, as a sports film becomes a road movie while the team travel across Europe on a rickety old tour bus. For the team, winning finishes second to having a good time, as they seek the thrills of the road and a giant event full of gay men, at the expense of their training.
The basic set-up ticks many competition movie boxes from the hopeless team to the fallen champion who seeks redemption through coaching, but after hitting some expected notes early on it turns in some unexpected directions and has a refreshing message which saves it from cliché. It’s reasonably funny throughout and like Priscilla it addresses some important issues in a mostly light and entertaining way.
It’s well directed by Maxime Govare and Cédric Le Gallo including pacy matches, well-shot bus top scenes against famous landmarks and an epic party sequence. But it also delivers a side helping of emotional sincerity without becoming wet. As a result this water polo movie is a slam dunk (sorry I don’t know any water polo terminology).