Man Up (2015)

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I caught up with my best pal a couple of weeks ago as we both happened to be in Hong Kong at the same time. He’s not exactly a movie buff, but he did recommend a film, Man Up, which he saw during the flight over.

I didn’t expect much when I checked it out the other day. Romantic comedies are probably my least favourite genre, and Man Up is a film that has seemingly received very little buzz. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell also seemed like a very odd couple.

Considering all this, Man Up turned out to be more than just serviceable — it was actually pretty good.

The premise is this: a mid-30s woman (Bell) who has more or less given up on finding love decides to roll the dice one last time when a 40-year-old divorcee (Pegg) mistakes her for his blind date. She goes along for the ride and thus begins a wild night of fun, romance and absurdly embarrassing encounters.

Generally speaking, this looks, sounds and smells like a fairly typical rom-com. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is filled with outrageous gags that infuse the film with a silly tone and a sense of destiny. But of course, no matter what happens throughout, you know how it will end.

That said, Man Up does everything rather well within the confines of the genre. Despite an apparent mismatch, Pegg and Bell have surprising chemistry, playing off each other’s strengths with great comedic timing. I knew Pegg would be good, so the big surprise here is that Bell is also excellent, not just in pulling off a convincing British accent but in not being afraid to make a fool of herself to get the big laughs.

However, the guy who stole the show for me was veteran British actor Rory Kinnear, a familiar face in the recent generation of Bond films as Bill Tanner, though in my mind he will forever be the prime minister who porked a pig in Black Mirror. Kinnear goes all out in this one as a creepy former high school classmate obsessed with Bell’s character, and he goes over-the-top by just the right amount to elicit the deepest belly laughs of the entire film. Just the voice he puts on is hilarious.

Strong performances aside, the dialogue is sharp and and a little explicit, treading the line between edgy and crude without toppling into the latter. It’s a strange thing to say, but this is a rare rom-com that is actually romantic and sexy and funny.

Though the film never steers full clear of rom-com cliches, and Bell is perhaps too attractive and in too-good shape for her predicament to be realistic, Man Up is confident and lively enough for a jolly good time, even for those not that into the genre.

3.5 stars out of 5

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