Enjoying a cinema release in America today and available on home media in the UK right now, “Man Up” – like “I Give It A Year” before it – is a lightweight British Rom-Com seeking to tap into that early Richard Curtis ‘Four Weddings’ vibe.
When Nancy (Lake Bell) accidentally steals someone else’s blind date, she decides to go with the deception in the hopes of resurrecting her barren love life. She meets 40 year old recently divorced Jack (Simon Pegg) and the two of them embark on a chaotic and comedic first date that neither of them will ever forget.
Despite its feature film ambitions, there’s something quite televisual about “Man Up”. Director Ben Palmer (“The Inbetweeners Movie”) is a veteran of TV comedies and it shows in this unfussy and small scale romp around London’s South Bank. Bell makes for a likeably, slightly schlubby heroine while Simon Pegg – a performer who often struggles with likeability – manages to be a reasonably charming leading man. While it lands a few glancing blows on the inherent weirdness of romance and dating, it lacks any intent or desire to dissect the subject of relationships like the brilliantly acerbic “The Lobster“, preferring to be first and foremost a cute and fuzzy urban fairy tale.
The tone wobbles a bit at times, especially when Rory Kinnear’s creepy-and-not-as-funny-as-the-film-thinks stalkery ex-classmate enters the frame. Thankfully, just as the initial gimmick is running out of steam the deception is exposed (which happens much earlier in the film than I was expecting) and the film jolts to life as Bell and Pegg’s characters start to spark off each other. There’s a rushed standard issue ‘all is lost’/ ‘last minute dash’ conclusion but it all ends happily enough to tick the romantic comedy boxes.
Sweet, undemanding fare with solid performances from its two leads, it’s a low key, snuggle up on the sofa on a Friday night kind of film. You won’t be quoting it for weeks after you’ve seen it but it’ll probably provoke a fond smile when you’re reminded of it.