Title: Man Up
Director: Ben Palmer
Major Players: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear
Out Of Five: 3.5
It’s Four Weddings And A Funeral’s 21st birthday this year. I won’t be baking a cake or celebrating in any other way, because I never understood what all the fuss was about. For me, it was perfectly pleasant, but nothing more. Yet it clearly struck a chord with the 90s. Thankfully, though, the current decade now has its very own rom-com.
Man Up is completely unapologetic about belonging to the genre, using all the conventions and clichés in equal measure without a hint of a send-up. And it brings it bang up to date with a story about the perils of dating, especially the blind variety.
Nancy (Lake Bell) is in her mid-30s, single and with her self-confidence at an all- time low after a set-up at a party goes horribly wrong. She’s given up on dating, until she’s mistaken by Jack (Simon Pegg) for his blind date. But they seem to get on and she decides to take a chance by going along with it rather than tell him the less than exciting truth. Of course, he’s going to find out sooner or later …..
Not that director Ben Palmer and his writer, Tess Morris, could resist the temptation of the occasional nod in the direction of other rom-coms. They’re all part of the convention, after all. So there’s something close to an 18-rated version of “that scene” from When Harry Met Sally, Jack tries to track down Nancy in a way reminiscent of Crocodile Dundee and they even meet under the proverbial clock at Waterloo station. And, while it’s a British comedy, it’s like quite a few of its predecessors in that its leading lady is played by an American. Must be something to do with the box office on the other side of The Pond.
Lake Bell has been dressed down for the role, all in an effort to make her look borderline boring. If you’ve never come across her before, you may not know that she’s fast getting a name for herself as a writer and director as well as an actress – nor, from her accent, would you know that she’s American. The important thing is that she and Simon Pegg have real on-screen chemistry, convincing as a pair who, because of their respective relationship failures, need to learn to take chances and just go with the flow. It isn’t just Pegg who needs to man up. She does too, and so does Sean, a scene stealing performance from Rory Kinnear as a creepy loser who’s lusted after her since their schooldays.
Man Up has heart, energy and a genuine honesty about it – and you really do want them to get together in the end. It’s truly the rom-com for right now.
Man Up is released in cinemas on Friday, 29 May.