MAN UP (UK | France/15A/88mins)
Directed by Pen Palmer. Starring Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear, Ophelia Lovibond, Olivia Williams
THE PLOT: Nancy (Lake Bell) is returning from an engagement party where she was set up on a disastrous blind date when she meets a woman on the train who decides her attitude toward dating is terrible, and leaves her a self help book. As Nancy tries to return the book to the girl at Waterloo Station, she is mistaken for her, by a blind date. Rather than admit the mix up, Nancy decides to go on the date with Jack (Simon Pegg), knowing all too well that this too, could end in disaster.
THE VERDICT: Directed by Ben Palmer – of THE INBETWEENERS fame – Man Up is a film that feels uneven and overly written. Tess Morris’s script is sweet, charming and has a couple of giggles when Jack and Nancy are alone together, but once other characters are added to the equation – Rory Kinnear as Sean, a man with a crush on Nancy since high school, for example – the film suddenly tires too hard to be funny and quirky, and completely misses the mark.
Lake Bell is wonderful as the perennially single, 34 year old Nancy. The character suits Bell as an actress, and she breathes life into Nancy, making her relatable and recognisable. Simon Pegg equally does well as Jack, a divorced man who is trying his best to move on. The two have lovely chemistry together, and it is clear they enjoyed their time on screen. Rory Kinnear struggles with the over the top Sean, however, and Ophelia Lovibond never manages to make Jessica anything other than vanilla.
Tess Morris’ screenplay is filled with wit and charm, but inexplicably goes way over the top at regular intervals through the film, taking the entire shebang from charming and warm, to weird and cringey. Director Ben Palmer tries to compensate for this by making the entire film feel over the top, but it is so obvious that Jack and Nancy have a strong emotional connection, that these lower energy scenes, which form the heart of the film, don’t fit with the manic chaotic atmosphere created by the supporting characters. As well as this, the timeline of the film feels just a little off, and the climactic scene that involves a teenage house party following Jack to Nancy’s house, just feels like a rip off of LOVE, ACTUALLY.
In all, MAN UP would have been a charming little rom-com about mistaken identity if so much of the rest of the film had not been unnecessarily ramped up for the sake of laughs. Bell and Pegg are wonderful together, the soundtrack is fantastic and there is lots to love here, but MAN UP is let down by to much manic action going on in the background, and not enough time spent with the central characters.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Man Up
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Charming but uneven
  • emerb

    The latest rom com to hit our big screens is “Man Up”, the story of a London blind date that goes badly wrong. Director Ben Palmer and screenwriter Tess Morris have clearly a rich understanding of this genre and so the film is an easy, breezy winner for me. Admittedly, it is rife with clichés and ultimately predictable,
    but it engages with the audience in a respectful and clever manner – you just can’t help liking it.

    Lake Bell plays Nancy – a ditsy 34 year old British love-starved singleton who is socially inept and unable to get herself noticed. She is no ugly duckling but Nancy is the kind of girlfriend who tells too many oral sex jokes and whose body language can’t conceal her desperation. Though she professes to be contentedly unattached, it’s not just romance that she’s failing at. She is disappointed with all aspects of her life and is unhappily growing into the role of being nothing more than an insecure, sad and lonely wallflower.

    On a train to Waterloo after a disaster of an evening, Nancy gets into uncomfortable conversation with the irksome and perky Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond), who gives her a romantic self-help book which she believes could change Nancy’s life. It emerges that Jessica is travelling to London to meet a blind date, Jack (Simon Pegg), arranged on the basis of their mutual interest in the book. He will identify her by her location (under a clock) and by the book in her hands. Jessica leaves her book with Nancy, and hurries off to grab a replacement. Nancy, however, gets there first and when Jack spots the original in her hands, he assumes she’s his date. Intrigued and attracted against her better instincts, she impulsively decides not to correct him, hijacking the other woman’s
    date in the process. The entirely unsuspecting Jack goes with it.

    What follows is a series of mishaps and mix-ups which are both very funny and very sweet. They start to relax with each other and discover an immediate, alcohol-induced chemistry. As they traverse London’s lit-up tourist spots, they start to fall in love. Things are going swimmingly until the unfortunate arrival of Sean (Rory Kinnear), a high-school acquaintance of Nancy’s. Sean has been harboring a creepy and obsessive crush on her for the last 20 years and he threatens to blow her cover unless she pays him off with sex. Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of this high-voiced, manic, terminally adolescent doofus is over the top,
    but it’s hilarious.

    The exposure of her lies makes Jack chastise Nancy for her deception and they argue their way through a few scenarios that force them to stay in each other’s presence longer than they want to. Soon however, he is caught pulling the wool over her eyes. One amusing scene finds Nancy and Jack posing as an established couple at the “porno-land” stage of their affair when forced to share a bar table with his snide ex-wife (Olivia Williams) and her bland lover (Stephen
    Campbell Moore) at an “accidental” encounter he’s contrived with them. The ending is inevitable as they bond over their similarly pathetic life situations but it’s given a clever twist with Jack enlisting the help of Jessica, Sean and a party of wild teenagers to help him find Nancy in order to profess his love.

    Bell and Pegg have an immediate spark that holds up consistently throughout the film. They have an easygoing connection that adds credibility to the rather unlikely set up. Pegg surprised me by being perfectly cast as a romantic lead here, rather than the nerdy, geek neurotic he’s usually pigeon holed into. Bell is goofy and likeable with a flawless British accent. Both actors are witty, sharp, relatable and fully engaged in the playfulness of their characters. Among the supporting cast, Kinnear has a few scene-stealers, though Williams scores many laughs too.

    “Man Up” is cheerful, snappy and sweet. It knows what type of film it should be and the funny script, together with the many pithy one liners and comic sequences, moves at a fast pace. The end result is unexpectedly refreshing and delightful. The commercial appeal for this movie is strong and I can see it being a big British hit but I think it is exportable too and should also succeed overseas thanks in large part to the charm and quick fire wit from the two lead characters.
    “Man Up” makes for an entertaining, fast paced laugh for a night out and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

  • filmbuff2011

    Striving for something different, but mostly ending up the same, romcom Man Up at least manages to be both charming and engaging. The set-up is a meet-cute gone wrong. Nancy (Lake Bell) is 34, terminally single and not quite ready to put herself out there and meet someone new. On the way to her parents’ anniversary, she ends being mistaken for someone else on a blind date by Jack (Simon Pegg). Flabbergasted but not quite sure what to say, she goes along with it and initially seems cautious. They walk and talk along London’s South Bank, somehow hitting it off despite Nancy’s deception. They then spend the rest of Saturday going to various bars, encountering Nancy’s awkward school friend Sean (Rory Kinnear) and Jack’s soon-to-be ex-wife (Olivia Williams). At some point, Nancy will have to tell Jack who she really is, so is this a match made in heaven – or hell? Working from Tess Morris’ script, director Ben Palmer creates a lot of interesting, meaty material for Bell and Pegg to work with. Nancy has a touch of Bridget Jones about her, but she’s also a bit more bitter and realistic about her expectations in life (e.g. her reactions to the guy in the bar who has a photo of his sister in his wallet). Jack has baggage of his own, seemingly unable to move on from his ex-wife. The interplay between these two great actors is the film’s greatest strength. If you’ve seen In A World… then you’ll know how versatile American actress Bell is with voices. Here she nails a spot-on English accent – one of her bucket list items apparently, which she even fooled the crew with by staying in character (it worked then). The first half hour of scenes between them are great, but then the story drags on a bit, not quite knowing where to go. Nancy is reduced into a sobbing mess and then there’s the obligatory last-minute rush which is a predictable staple of the modern romcom. A little more imagination would have gone a long way here. But on the whole, Man Up is light, funny and endearing in a way that many romcoms often struggle to find. Not essential viewing, but worth a look. ***

  • Martin

    A good rom com that sometimes can’t decide if it’s a cute feel good romantic movie or one that’s more towards comedy with risky jokes. Some of the jokes don’t land very well and in the cinema there wasn’t much laugh out loud moments. But the charm and wit of the two main leads pull the movie along and make it a very enjoyable experience. Man up does turn out to be fairly predictable but in fairness aren’t most rom coms the same in that way. Not a bad movie. And well worth a watch.