Man Up: Film Review
Cast: Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear, Ophelia Lovibond, Ken Stott
Director: Ben Palmer
Once again, it's back to a Britain and a romantic comedy where the slightly loopy and utterly unhinged live, but are forever charming thanks to the exploits of that foppish Hugh Grant.
Bell, donning an English accent, is Nancy, a 34-year-old romantic mess of a woman whose continual lack of success during set-ups by her friends fuels her neurotic lifestyle. After yet another unsuccessful mismatch, and compelled by a complete stranger (Ophelia Lovibond) on a train to do so, inadvertently ends up on a blind date with 40-year-old divorcee Jack (Spaced star Simon Pegg).
Deciding not to correct Jack's perception that she's his younger date, and going against her own character, she rolls with it - and finds that life's great rollercoaster has offered her a chance at happiness. But, when the truth comes out over that one night, what next for both Jack and Nancy?
Man Up has a degree of madcap quick cutting banter between the two leads which wouldn't be out of place with any of Edgar Wright's previous outings with Pegg.
Though to be fair, it's Bell who assumes the usual Pegg loser role as she borders nigh on unlikeably neurotic and in need of becoming a weak-kneed woman railing against the ineptitude of her own life, but who comes up short when challenged with rising up and fighting to the top of the cliff of her own failure.
Thankfully, the writers realise this early on, and gift Bell a rounded role that sees her getting the audience on side. It's helped in no small way by the camaraderie and rapport that she shares with Pegg's Jack, who appears confident but then channels the typical rom-com stylings, haunted by failures past made brutally present by Olivia Williams as his ex. It's these scenes when they're together that convince us of this relationship, see us champion it and watch in horror as life threatens to pull it apart.
While some OTT stereotypes still linger in the script (as personified by Kinnear's stalker whose lunacy veers from cringeworthy to downright injunction-worthy and feels drastically out of place), it all culminates in a finale that embraces the very best of what makes those awfully sappy Brit rom-coms come together - hint, a speech delivered by Pegg would have once been given by a certain Hugh Grant.
But somehow, against all the odds, Man Up manages to work - it's charming, but not exactly perfect and realises that it's two smartest assets are Pegg and Bell; time spent apart from these two during the film drag, but when they're together, the sparkle lifts the humdrum into the eminently watchable.