Man Up

Man-Up-posterDirector: Ben Palmer

Writer: Tess Morris

Cast: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear, Sharon Horgan, Ken Stott, Harriett Walker, Ophelia Lovibond

Cert: 15

Running Time: 88 mins

Year: 2015


The lowdown: Break out your beer goggles and practice your chat-up patter for a raucous rom-com from the director of The Inbetweeners. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell generate genuine chemistry but ultimately this ‘deceit cute’ comes on like a desperate date trying too hard to be everything you want, instead of a fun fling while you’re waiting for the real thing to come along.


The full verdict: Romantic comedies are a tricky mixture. Too much amour may find the audience swamped in treacly sweetness, but concentrate on getting the giggles and the love story could be lost amid gross out gags and pithy punchlines.

Director Palmer and fresh female voice Tess Morris attempt to please everyone with an equal amount of effusive emotion and explicit innuendo. The result is an uneven, albeit entertaining enterprise.

Morris clearly endorses the Bridesmaids/Bridget Jones ethos of the heroine appearing more of a fool than her male counterpart. Nancy (Bell) is a thirtysomething, list-loving laggard who’s tired of her single status but would rather stuff her face while watching Silence Of The Lambs than put on a frock and meet Mr Right.

New Yorker Bell’s Estuary accent is watertight and her comic timing impeccable. She’s also credible as a gawky dawdler despite her leggy good looks.

The set-up is classic rom-com convolution; after a mix-up at Waterloo Station, Nancy is approached by Jack (Pegg) who mistakes her for his blind date. Sensing a connection between them, she doesn’t correct him and continues with the charade.

Initial scenes perfectly capture the cringe-inducing fumbles of a first date, with the added awkwardness of Nancy trying to adjust to each new revelation about Jack’s ideal match.

Pegg refines his geeky good guy persona to portray a believable romantic lead and his casual chemistry with Bell spawns a hitherto unseen sexiness (particularly palpable in a delightfully bawdy bowling montage).

The London locations work well, standard picture postcard presentations of the capital are exchanged for the more relatable Southbank and Soho (although jokes about Clapham Junction will garner few guffaws of recognition outside the M25).

After Nancy’s deception is discovered, the banter sharpens and while the laugh quotient quadruples, it never quite recaptures its earlier authenticity. An examination of commitment during a Duran Duran dance off feels forced and the script reverts to more traditional territory towards the overly-sentimental end.

On the way there’s filthy fun to be had at the expense of Jack’s splenetic ex (Olivia Williams), but the outré antics of Rory Kinnear as a stalky former school mate have more in common with director Palmer’s previous sex-obsessed social outcasts.

Stalwart support comes from Sharon Horgan, Harriett Walker and a scene stealing Ken Stott as Nancy’s encouraging/despairing family but they fall foul of the sweary, liquor-loving Brits stereotype that seems to be a rom-com staple.

At an expeditious length it doesn’t outstay its welcome and although unlikely to change your life, it’s still worth taking a chance on.

Angela Britten

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