Man Up is a film about being in the right place at the right time on the wrong date. When Nancy (Lake Bell; Million Dollar Arm, Children’s Hospital) ends up going on someone else’s blind date with Jack (Simon Pegg; Kill Me Three Times, The World’s End) they end up going on a drinking binge and falling for each other.
Simon Pegg is well Simon Pegg in the film and probably brings the most laughs to the table. Lake Bell is more of an unknown entity in the UK, but I’ve been a fan of her work for a while. Last year’s In A World which she wrote, starred and directed is a must for anyone who likes hilarious comedy and what she brings to the surreally brilliant Children’s Hospital has her marked out as a strong comedic actress. I was really exited to see what Bell brought to the film, but it was just a bit flat, and I think her talents were restricted by the constraints of the rather straight British rom com. American Bell was also playing British and spent the majority of the film doing a rather convincing Jessica Stevenson impression which made me think she’d watched a lot of Spaced to prepare, but sadly the script is not as surreally magic as Spaced.
At times it feels like Man Up is trying to attempt to be the 30 something emotional crisis movie, in a way trying to bring what Joe Swanberg, Noah Baumbach and the Duplass Brothers deliver routinely, but to a more mainstream UK market. There are moments of tenderness as we learn more about Jack and Nancy, their past and their failed relationships and I would have happily seen more of these conversations as they showed personality and heart. These moments are however too brief and not built up as the crux of the film.
It’s all just a bit safe, probably in an attempt to make a film that can be a hit with a mainstream British audience. The whole initial premise of the film with the hijacked blind date is a bit silly, but has real potential. There are so many things they could have done with it, it could have be stylised a la Spaced, more surreal a la Children’s Hospital or have gone a bit darker, all things which we know both Pegg and Bell are capable of and could have added to with their talents. The ending is pretty much a given and just plays the traditional rom com card which though not a surprise, just feels a little tiresome. There was also a rather odd and unnecessary storyline with an old school mate of Nancy’s.
On the whole Man Up is nice enough and enjoyable but if you were wanting more from the film than a pleasant Brit rom com then you’ll be disappointed. A promising start and though it’s not a trainwreck of a film, I would have like to have seen them take a few more risks and play to the actor’s comedic strengths.
Genre: Romantic Comedy Release Date: 29th May Rating:15 Running Time: 88 mins Director: Ben Palmer Cast:Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Ophelia Lovibond