The Inbetweeners helmsman, Ben Palmer, heads up the latest British rom-com, Man Up, featuring Simon Pegg and In a World… star, Lake Bell. Scripted by The Love Punch’s Tess Morris, the spirited romp focuses on one messed up date which even Tinder would be proud of.
Unwittingly hijacking someone’s blind date while heading to her parents’ 40th anniversary knees-up, Nancy (Bell) finds herself on a boozy night out with stranger, Jack (Pegg). Shots are necked and pins are bowled over, as she realises – despite her dishonesty – that he’s actually a thoroughly decent bloke. When the truth eventually comes out, their previously enjoyable night unravels very quickly. As sparks fly and exes appear, revelations are aplenty. One’s a massive cynic, the other a hopeless romantic – yet there’s chemistry between the pair. Was it the wrong date after all?
It’s a genre plagued with predictability and over-worked romantic clichés which have as much originality as a Nicholas Sparks novel. Plucking something special out of this turd-infested, vomit-inducing puddle of lovey dovey drivel is a modern day rarity, but Palmer and scriptwriter Morris have tried to add a little spirit and tenacity to the mix with Man Up.
Still a film fraught with predictable patterns and stereotypical traits (opposites attract, girl meets boy, girl loses boy, yada yada yada…), it works overly hard to add a little quirky sparkle to the mix with its over-active, philosophical leads. Rambling on about bollocks no one cares about, Nancy and Jack’s evidently nervous dispositions on first meeting one another should come across as charming or adorable, yet, like a Linklater romance, appears overtly smuggish.
Similarly to a real date, however, as the night ensues and the drinks start to flow, the shackles come off and the fun really does start. As the pair bust some impressive shapes in an anger-induced dance off to some 80s hits, the pretentiousness which hung over Man Up’s earlier scenes comes crashing down, bringing with it the real quirky, yet still highly soppy/sentimental claptrap it should have always been. Rory Kinnear’s Sean, Nancy’s creepy school stalker, is surprisingly funny, as is Pegg’s joyously loveable Whitesnake-themed running scene – a memorable highlight worth savouring in all its cheesy glory!
We’re still waiting for a Hugh Grant-lite extravagenza to stand up against those Amercian rom-com classics like When Harry Met Sally and Annie Hall, and although Man Up tries to bring something different to the over-crowded table, barring a few fleeting moments of musically induced goodness, it falls well short.