Man Up - Cinema Review

'produces a more honest slice of modern romance than the shiny big budget productions which promise us wonderful airbrushed lives'

There's a good section in Charles Gant's box office blog this week which discusses the continuing troubles of the British Rom-Com. It would appear that if you're not Richard Curtis, or you don't have a bona fide star (potentially of US origin), then nowadays, you're on a hiding to nothing. In some ways, for a genre that is almost religious in its dedication to familiar tired tropes, I would have said before sitting down for Man Up, that this was no bad thing.

But then, during the trailers for Ben Palmer's film, fronted by Simon Pegg and Lake Bell, there played a preview for The Longest Ride, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation to look like every other Nicholas Sparks adaptation, and suddenly I was pining for Hugh Grant's swearing, naivete and slight cynicism. Man Up doesn't deliver any of that, but it does, at times, at least try, and in doing so it produces a more honest slice of modern romance than the shiny big budget productions which promise us wonderful airbrushed lives.

That said, it does not start well. Nancy (Bell) is introduced to us at an engagement party and then on a train back to London. Neither scene has a laugh, Tess Morris' script instead relying on embarrassing moments. I have a real problem with this as a comedic device, but even if you're predisposed to it, it's no substitute for a well-scripted joke or two.

Things perk noticeably when Jack (Pegg) arrives, waiting for a blind date that isn't Nancy but, in the grand tradition of meet cutes, inevitably becomes her. Pegg's recent offerings, particularly when absent from Messrs Wright and Frost, have been spotty to say the least, but here, at least initially, he is a convincing blend of either charming or smarmy. Should we trust this forty year-old, waiting for a date with a twenty-four year old 'from the city'? Palmer's direction does enough to make us question it.

The rest of the film, which tries to tread that line between charming and smarmy, sweet and cynical, does find itself with a challenge. Elements work (a dancefloor battle between cynicism and romance is effective and funny) but others don't. In particular there's a horrible, stick-your-fingers-in-your-throat-then-your-ears bit of scripting about looking for the blue bits in the jigsaw of your life. Rory Kinnear as an 'hilarious' stalker is in the exact wrong middle point between laughter and being locked up. Some of these elements, Sean (Kinnear) in particular, could have worked with more time: at just eighty-eight minutes, Man Up is brief in the extreme.

The charm of Pegg in particular, but also Bell, is enough to see it through, but with a bit of a tidy up there are signs that this could have been even better. You can certainly feed me something with Man Up's bite (it's a 15 in the UK) ahead of much more staid international offerings, any day of the week.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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