Simon Pegg is in dire need of a hit. It’s never good for business when your last film not only flops but is accused of being racist. But worryingly, questionably racist films or not, it’s becoming apparent that unless he’s working with chums Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, or playing the comic relief in a multi-billion dollar franchise, Simon Pegg (*whispers*) isn’t actually very good. A painful thing to admit when your love of Shaun of The Dead is so strong you can near enough quote the entire film.
And at first glance, Man Up doesn’t look to be the film to change Pegg’s fortunes. But in actual fact, when you stop sneering at the thought of another British romantic comedy, the second film from The Inbetweeners Movie director Ben Palmer is sweet, extremely charming, very funny, and even a tad self-aware. But best of all, Simon Pegg is completely overshadowed by his excellent co-star Lake Bell, and is all the better for it.
Coming to everyone’s attention as the writer, director and star of 2013’s In A World…, Lake Bell is one of the most talented actresses around. And now, she’s gone and done a Zellwegger and delivered an absolutely spot-on, brilliantly British, Bridget Jones-esque performance, complete with the accent and the embittered singleton outlook on romance us Brits can’t get enough of.
After flying solo at a friend’s engagement party, a disgruntled and slightly hungover Nancy (Bell) returns home to London. But as she walks through Waterloo Station she’s mistaken for the 24-year-old blind date of a stranger, the enthusiastic Jack (Pegg). Rather than explain the situation, apologise and shuffle off, Nancy, without a plan, goes along with it, pretending to be this other woman.
It’s an easy, breezy and very simple set-up that Richard Curtis would be proud of. Ben Palmer has a blast doing something a little different with the usual rom-com set-up, and thanks to the chemistry between his two strong leads, a laugh-out-loud supporting cast and the recognisable London locations that’ll make you go: ‘Oooo I’ve been there!’, we could have a new Love, Actually on our hands.
Simon Pegg is perfect as the 40-year-old divorced hopeless romantic that we can almost forgive him for Hector & the Search for Happiness. Jack’s tough break-up has left him vulnerable and his sudden awkward leap back into the dating game has a whiff of desperation about it. Thankfully, if there are two things Pegg can pull off, its awkwardness and desperation. Unlike Hector, Jack is a relatable, extremely likeable character who you just want to cuddle.
Bell’s Nancy meanwhile is the perfect rom-com character. She’s funny, attractive, is uncomfortable in her own skin and acts like one of the boys. She’s also more or less given up on romance after too many disastrous dates, and it doesn’t help matters that her sister Elaine, played by Sharon Horgan, has the perfect family life and her parents are celebrating a milestone anniversary. Together then, as you can expect, Jack and Nancy bond over their despair for happy, loved-up couples, excessive boozing, and Wall Street references.
Apologies for getting all mushy but Man Up is the perfect antidote for those people who have given up on love. It might be as predictable as they come, veer a little too close to unrealistic melodrama towards the finale and have a title that doesn’t make much sense, but Man Up is a rom-com for those tired of rom-coms and will make the most hardest of romantic cynics crack a wry smile. Jack and Nancy would probably absolutely love this film.