Man Up Blu-ray Review

Man Up

If you’re looking for yet another awkward British comedy about love, then look no further.

Man Up is Simon Pegg’s latest sojourn away from Hollywood, and he’s brought the producer of his Cornetto Trilogy and director of The Inbetweeners Movie along with for the ride, which should give you an idea of the quirky yet cringe-inducing humour to come.

The ubiquitous Pegg plays Jack, a forty-year-old recent divorcee who is still more than a little bitter about his ex-wife. Despite these hang-ups, Jack is a deep-down romantic and ultimately optimistic about meeting someone new.

Lake Bell is Nancy, a mid-thirties singleton who the entire world seems to be pressurising to settle down. She is decidedly cynical about the prospect.

One day, following a chance encounter with chirpy stranger Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond), Nancy bumps into Jack under the clock at Waterloo station.

As rom-com rules dictate, Jack immediately mistakes Nancy for his blind date and she makes a split-decision to go along with the charade, taking her sister’s advice to ‘put herself out there’.

What follows is a date full of laughter, tears, recriminations and revelations.

Sure, there are some implausible twists and turns, not to mention improbable character behaviour such as when Jack overcomes Nancy’s initial scepticism with a Hannibal Lecter impersonation, but hey: this is rom-com London. Get used to it.

The feel of the capital is indeed charmingly evoked, with scenes of train delays and Oyster card failures all too familiar to the city’s denizens, and the characters are mostly appealing, particularly Lake Bell’s Nancy.

When I last saw her in 2012’s Black Rock, Bell seemed the epitome of American sassiness. It was initially odd then, to see her playing such an all-English female lead.

But she offers a sweet yet sparky turn here, sporting a flawless London accent and a Hugh-Grant level of amiable verbal bumbling.

Nancy’s family is rounded out by Sharon Horgan, Ken Stott and Harriet Walter who anchor the film’s more comedic elements with believable warmth and depth.

The other characters don’t fare as well.

Olivia Williams pops up in a disappointing, thinly-written near-cameo of a role. And the usually dependable Pegg seems a little dry at first, starting off as the straight man to Bell’s Bridget-Jones-esque heroine.

As the date wears on, Pegg’s character does graduate into some welcome wackiness, but this is where the film also loses its tonal footing a little. This is exacerbated by

Rory Kinnear’s Sean, a hyper-real, downright zany lunatic who seems to have escaped from another film entirely.

This ramping-up of the absurdity levels only serves to undermine the film’s wittier and relatable insights.

And although the whole mistaken-identity premise is a tad far-fetched to begin with, credibility is stretched and ultimately snapped by an over-the-top finale.

But there is fun to be had here if you can accept the wacky with the witty, and the chemistry is strong between the two leads.

Bell in particular proves an impressive comedic heroine, distracting from a plot with an all-too-predictable trajectory.

The film sadly offers little else to elevate itself above the status of enjoyable time-filler.

Conor Brennan

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September 2015
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