Tag Archives: rom-com

Man Up (2015)

man-up-poster

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

Movie Review: Walk of Shame (2014)

walk of shame

The nicest thing I can say about Walk of Shame, the new Steven Brill comedy starring Elizabeth Banks, is that there’s nothing about it that makes me loath the film with a vengeance. The same can’t be said about Brill’s last directorial effort, which is the appallingly toxic iBabe segment in the venom-inducing Movie 43 from last year. The worst crime Walk of Shame is guilty of is being criminally unfunny, and I suppose that’s an improvement.

Elizabeth Banks, who got into great shape to fit into the snug yellow outfit she dons for the majority of the film, is Meghan Miles, a news anchor and a “good girl”, the safe option in a safe relationship. A series of unfortunate events befall her, and a dispirited Meghan goes out on a wild night with her girlfriends, only to wake up in the bed of sexy stranger Gordon (James Marsden). The rest of the film is all about Meghan running into one outrageous situation after another as she tries to make her way to the news station so she can cash in on a new job opportunity. 

It’s a fairly typical comedy premise where nothing seems to go right for the protagonist, and all efforts to resolve the situation only lead to more misunderstanding and mayhem.

In this case, the central gag is that Meghan is repeatedly mistaken for a prostitute, which gets her involved with both the police and gangster drug dealers. It doesn’t sound like a hopeless idea, but I kid you not when I say there was not a single laugh to be found in the entire 95-minute film. Not a tee-hee, not a chuckle, and nary a smile. (OK, so the introductory sequence with real-life news blooper footage WAS funny, but that’s just collected from YouTube, so you can’t give the movie credit for that.)

The jokes are either obvious, typical or stereotypical. I don’t want to say misogynistic because that is a term that gets thrown around too liberally these days, but much of the humour in Walk of Shame is definitely sexist and racist. That’s something I don’t usually mind if the film is actually funny. When it’s not witty or funny, however, it’s just pathetic, and that’s what this movie ultimately is.

And I haven’t even mentioned how incoherent the plot is and how little sense any of it makes. It’s really hard to get into a film — any film — when its central premise is that flimsy. There were about a million ways Meghan could have resolved the situation, but of course she keeps choosing the most moronic, implausible option just so she could extend her misery, and ostensibly, ours.

Elizabeth Banks tries her hardest but can’t even come close to salvaging this disaster. I doubt even Meryl Streep could have. Is Banks a likable protagonist? I dunno. She certainly is a stupid one and not really worthy of our sympathy. 

As for James Marsden, the poor guy still can’t catch a break. I don’t get it. He’s a good-looking guy and not without charisma or acting ability, and yet he seems to always get the worst roles. He was the guy Rachel McAdams ditched without reservation in The Notebook. He was the guy who turned Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, into an afterthought. Even when he gets a leading role, such as in the remake of Straw Dogs, the film never gets any traction. And the romantic comedy roles he gets appear to be those Paul Rudd would not touch with a 10-foot pole. I last saw him in The Butler as JFK, and we all know what happened to him. Poor bastard.

As bad as it is, Walk of Shame is at least not one of those films that left me spewing vitriolic profanities by the end if it. It’s just one of those really unfunny romantic comedies you wonder what possessed the studio to make and will forget a couple of days after watching it. In this case, that’s a good thing.

1.5 stars out of 5

DVD Review: Chalet Girl (2011)

Don’t ask me why I watched Chalet Girl, the British answer to American teen rom-coms.  I can assure you, it has nothing to do with the fact that I also watch(ed) Gossip Girl, even though this film also stars Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass).

Chalet Girl tells the story of tomboy Kim Matthews (played by a very likeable Felicity Jones), who used to be a champion skateboarder but a turn of events has her working at fast food joint to support her deadbeat father.  A catering opportunity in the Alps sees Kim discover the joys of a similar sport (or so I’ve told, from a technical perspective) — snowboarding.  Meanwhile, she befriends fellow chalet girl Georgie (Tasmin Edgerton) and finds herself getting close to her boss (Westwick), who, of course, already has a girlfriend.

If I sound less than enthusiastic, I don’t mean to be.  Chalet Girl actually isn’t all that bad compared to its US counterparts.  It’s mildly amusing, contains some exciting sports action and the plot is…well, at least there is a plot.  The film is anchored by Felicity Jones, who does a fantastic job as Kim, and it’s also quite interesting (and bizarre) to see Westwick speak in his natural British accent.

Ultimately, Chalet Girl is light, frothy, forgettable fun that’s a little more charming that it ought to be for a film of this kind.  But it still doesn’t mean that it’s particularly good.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Something Borrowed (2011)

National Release Date: 5 May 2011

Something Borrowed has a specific target audience in mind, and that target audience doesn’t include me.  After all, it is based on the bestselling chick lit novel (by Emily Griffin) and stars Kate Hudson, who I simply don’t like for reasons I don’t really understand.

Something Borrowed is an apt title, I suppose, because it borrows freely from other chick lit and chick flicks.  Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin from She’s Just Not That Into You — is it just me or has she lost a lot of weight?) is a thirty-year old single woman who is a quiet sidekick to her wild best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson), and is secretly in love with said friend’s fiance Dex (Colin Egglesfield), who was once her potential suitor and may have feelings for her too.

That’s all I’ll say but I imagine you can guess the rest.  Angst, heartache, heartbreak, loyalty, betrayal, friendship, love lost and love won — you get the gist.  It’s categorised as a rom-com but the humour is light and typical.  I wouldn’t call it completely predictable but there was definitely a sense of inevitability to the whole thing, which was all very formulaic.

There were good reasons for me to like the film.  Rachel is a lawyer (my old world) and her long-time confidant Ethan (John Krasinki) is a writer (my new world).  It’s a film about something I can appreciate — competing desires — what you want against what others think is right.  But I just couldn’t get into it, and I doubt the rest of the almost entirely male reviewer audience could either.

To be fair, I am a fan of Ginnifer Goodwin, who seems to be making a habit of being the lead actress without getting top billing (she was really the central character of He’s Just Not That Into You and dominates this film from start to finish).  She gives a stellar performance and is likable as the torn Rachel.  And as much as I hate to say it, Kate Hudson was pretty good too (but it doesn’t change the way I feel about her).  As for the male cast, John Krasinki was solid, bringing his comedic presence from The Office along with him, but Colin Egglesfield was horrible.  A fine looking man, but he failed to bring out a character that could have and should have been so much more.

Ultimately, the target audience may very well enjoy Something Borrowed.  Modern fairytalesque love triangle, (very) light humour, pretty stars and a cookie-cutter plot with an ending that’s too neatly wrapped for my liking (though for a film of this kind it’s not too bad).  I just wish it was more engrossing, had more laughs, and had more likable characters.  Was that too much to ask?

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: She’s Out of My League (2010)

I heard some good things about She’s Out of My League before I went to see it — so I had reasonable expectations.  It seemed like one of those Judd Apatow-esque films, with a quirky premise, everyday characters, and lots of funny (and sometimes outrageous or vulgar) dialogue and interactions.  Well, it pretty much was, and while it’s not bad, there’s nothing to really separate it from other similar films in recent years.

Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby, Tropic Thunder), a very underrated actor in my opinion, plays Kirk, a regular guy who works in airport security.  British Actress Alice Eve plays Molly, a pretty girl Kirk meets by chance, and who seems too good to be true.  The name of the film says it all, so there’s no need to elaborate much further than that.  Of course, there are the wacky friends, the crazy family, the rival, and a bunch of embarrassing incidents — all things you could have probably guessed.

For what is essentially a vulgar-ish rom-com, She’s Out of My League actually offers some interesting and honest insights into human nature and relationships.  At times, the story can be sweet and display some heart, but it never really gets there in my opinion.

Is the film funny?  Yes, but nothing that had me rolling in the isles.  To be honest it was too “hit and miss” for my liking, and there was an over-reliance on swearing for comedic effect.  When used correctly, it’s awesome, but too often in this film it comes off as contrived and obnoxious.  Don’t get me wrong though, there are some genuinely funny moments, whether it’s a casual conversation or a cringe-worthy incident.  But sadly, this was another one of those films where the trailer revealed all the best jokes.  When will I learn to stop watching them?

She’s Out of My League is a decent film capable of making you laugh, especially when in the right frame of mind, but ultimately it’s not a standout in this type of genre.

3 out of 5 stars