Man Up (Review)

Man Up (Review)

I'm going to just come right out and say it: this is a bad film. From its random title that leads you to believe this is some sort of bromance, to its contrived plot, this film is 88 minutes of awfulness. The film's only saving grace is Lake Bell, the US actor-director, who does a Renee Zellweger here, adopting a very plausible British accent to play single journalist Nancy Patterson. But here's the thing: we're supposed to believe that the gorgeous Bell has been single for four years without any indication as to why. The script, written by first-timer Tess Morris, is largely MIA, relying instead on the performances of its two leads. Had Lake Bell been partnered with a more engaging actor than Simon Pegg, they might just have got away with it.

When Nancy meets a twentysomething on her way to Waterloo Station for a blind date (in this day and age! Have the filmmakers never heard of Tinder?), she accidentally assumes the young woman's identity and goes on the date in her place. Now, if the date had been with George Clooney or Idris Elba, I might have bought this set-up. But it's Simon Pegg. Simon Pegg. It's one thing to suspend belief, it's quite another to suspend all logic and reason.

During this "meet cute", there's a clumsy reference to Silence of the Lambs and we're asked to accept that Nancy sticks with this man throughout the evening because they're both movie buffs. Really. How easy would it have been to have made Nancy a blogger, who is assigned to write a piece on dating - or risk losing her job. Then she would have to go on the date in order to have something to write about.

As it is, this film feels contemptuous of its audience. It isn't just bad, it's offensive to women. I lost count of the number of times Nancy refers to her age; at 34, she's supposed to be over the hill. Ladies, the makers of this film seem to be saying, you can be beautiful, intelligent and successful but if you're not spliced by the time you reach 30, forget it! Nancy says she's a journalist, but there's little evidence of this - other than the fact that she carries a notebook. Only one scene made me laugh - there's a completely contrived encounter with Jack's (Simon Pegg) ex-wife in a bar that ends with Nancy pretending to be firewoman and tackling a blaze.

While Bell is every bit as good as Julia Roberts, Pegg is not at his best here. It feels as though director Ben Palmer was afraid to give him direction. With a better director, Man Up might just have been able to pull this premise off. But here's the thing: if you have a romantic comedy which features two people walking and talking a lot, then you need a) scintillating dialogue and/or b) a great backdrop. Palmer's largely squanders his central London location (it might as well have been shot in Manchester), while the dialogue is stilted. I'd like to tie Morris and Palmer to a chair and make them watch Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve on a loop for 24 hours.

Man Up is one to avoid.


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