Starring: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear
Director: Ben Palmer
Running Time: 88 mins
Man Up is a British film about a woman who spontaneously takes the place of a stranger’s blind date, only to find that the man she meets might be just what she’s been missing all along.
This is a seriously formulaic romantic comedy, which I’ve seen a million times before. But for once, it’s a formula that works! I’m still perplexed by how much I adored Man Up from start to finish despite it being a part of one of my most loathed genres, but I can’t escape the fact that it’s easily one of the best romantic comedies I’ve ever seen, and even one of the most consistently entertaining and happy films I’ve ever seen too.
The major issue that the romantic comedy formula has is that it’s completely predictable, and still cheesy and preposterous. However, what I’ve seen with Man Up is that you can have a film with such a formulaic story (and believe me, this follows the rom-com instruction book so closely), but when it’s injected with fun-loving performances, entertaining and light-hearted comedy and quick-paced, snappy dialogue, you can have a whale of a time.
What I liked most about this film was the performances. Simon Pegg, who’s done a couple of sub-par rom-coms in the past few years, is brilliant. He’s so much fun to watch, and it’s a performance that feels a lot more like the classic, funny Simon Pegg that we know from the likes of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End – this might be his best comedic performance outside of those films.
However, Lake Bell really is the star of the show. Firstly, she has such amazing on-screen chemistry with Pegg, and it really makes their characters’ relationship not only more believable, but more enjoyable. It was because these two performances were so good that I was genuinely wanting there to be a happily ever after ending, something I don’t ever remember doing in a romantic comedy. Also, Bell is just so relaxed in her role. Again, it’s the generic Bridget Jones type, a single woman in her early thirties who just gets everything wrong about dating, but because Lake Bell’s performance is just calm and collected, it doesn’t feel annoying and stupid, which was wonderful to see. (Also, Lake Bell does an absolutely impeccable accent – more bonus points).
Now moving onto the screenplay. As I’ve made clear, this is no different to your average rom-com. Girl meets boy, girl is awkward with boy, girl fights with boy, they make up, run to the airport etc. etc. etc., but what Man Up did so brilliantly was make me not care at all about how predictable the plot was by making me have so much fun in the moment.
Of course I could see what was coming, but every single scene in this film is both so well-acted and so well-written, with amazing fast-paced and witty dialogue that you don’t really see in the genre too much, that I couldn’t care less whether it had a generic ending or not – I was happy and having fun at every moment throughout.
So, what I’m trying to say about this film is that, despite my hatred for the rom-com formula, it can work if you try. So many rom-coms are just lazily-written and that’s why they feel so predictable and unfunny, but if you get a film with such a brilliantly funny screenplay, and put two amazing performances that work so well together, you can make one of the most fun films ever, to the point where I genuinely didn’t want this to end, and that’s why I’ll give Man Up an 8.6.