It can be awfully unbecoming to watch a couple of adults play at being nervous teenagers. But that’s how Lake Bell and Simon Pegg spend the first third of Man Up. It’s not entirely unsuccessful. You can’t deny Pegg’s deft charm as a nattering dork. Those distinguished crinkles fan out around his eyes when he grins and you know he’s better than this. Lake Bell tempers her comedic confidence with a generous dollop of vulnerability. And who can resist the mega-wattage of that Julia Roberts smile?
The contrived conflict kicks in awfully early. Watch the forced sparks sputter! Then the convenient split before they finally realize The Thing That’s Really Important Is Each Other. To a sappy piano rendition of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”, no less. Finally the wacky and frenzied dash to reconnect and the climactic emotional confessions of love in front of a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. “I think you might be the blue bits,” Pegg declares at last! It’s a callback to a metaphor about life being like a jigsaw puzzle. Man Up is nothing if not a clunky formulaic script.
Also notable is Rory Kinnear, who really puts himself out there as the comedic relief. To think this was the actor whose Bolingbroke was such a powerful presence in the BBC’s televised Richard II. I’m sorry, that’s an awfully snooty thing to say in a romcom review, isn’t it? Can you tell this isn’t my preferred genre? But even I know the key to a formulaic romcom is a couple of appealing leads willing to commit even if the script is awful. Man Up has that in spades.
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