2015 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Divorced forty-something Jack (Simon Pegg) thinks he's met his blind date at London's Waterloo station...but it's actually serial commitment-phobe Nancy (Drake Bell). After the mix-up, she allows the misunderstanding to continue and the couple enjoy a booze-driven night on the Soho tiles...until her cover is blown when she runs into an old schoolmate (Rory Kinnear) who still holds a torch for her. Sparky farce from the director of The Inbetweeners Movie.

Director

  • Ben Palmer

Cast

  • Simon Pegg

  • Lake Bell

  • Dean-Charles Chapman

  • Olivia Williams

  • Ophelia Lovibond

  • Rory Kinnear

Review

At first glance, Man Up is as generic as romantic comedies come; a perennial singleton, afraid of being left on the proverbial shelf, is cajoled into widening her dating field and through misunderstanding and happenstance, is thrown into the path of a lovelorn man.

​Could a twist of fate lead to romance for this pair who are far less mismatched than they seem? We'll give you three guesses; you'll only need one.

What separates this British effort from the pack is the combination of a dry, smart and genuinely funny script, pacy and engrossing direction and two leads who are talented and likeable, but most importantly, believable as human beings.

​The casting director also deserves a round of applause for filling the ensemble with genuine quality.

We've got Game of Thrones' John Bradley West (Samwell Tarly) as a helpful hotel waiter. Ken Stott and Harriet Wheeler as the heroine's decades-married parents, the fantastically-named Ophelia Lovibond as the story's unwitting catalyst and Skyfall's Rory Kinnear as an oddly confident loser who's failed to let go of the past. And there's the great Olivia Williams cast against type in heartbreaker mode.

All good people, all in the background, but it's okay to relegate such talent to supporting parts when you've got a leading pair of this calibre. When he's not being misunderstood about blockbusters or cracking wise next to Tom Cruise, Pegg remains this nation's finest comic actor, blessed with outstanding timing, physicality and delivery.

​American actress Bell, probably best known here for the sublime In A World..., does 'English middle class with a heavy fringe' with such humanity and tenderness that you'll want to join Stott and Wheeler in giving her a hug as the narrative takes a (seemingly) disastrous turn.

Using a first-time feature script from Tess Morris, with The Inbetweeners Movie's Ben Palmer in the director's chair, what Man Up does brilliantly is both mock and embrace the tropes of the romantic comedy genre.

​There's a 'meet-cute', a whistlestop tour of picturesque metropolitan spots, a race against time, a meeting with the ex and a dramatic, sprint-finish climax. There's no denying you've seen some of this stuff before. Certainly a couple of times with Katherine Heigl.

But if you're going to visit familiar territory, take the trip with class actors and a sense that the forced unreality of the genre is being acknowledged.

​With its action condensed into a single afternoon and evening, Man Up expertly conveys the feel of one of those great first dates that just kept going. It's got an endearing and awkward Britishness that makes its characters relatable and, in the shape of its gifted leads, an onscreen couple you'll genuinely root for.

A breezy, honest, hilarious romcom with a stand-out performance from Lake Bell, Man Up's more than worthy of your date night attention.

Lewis Bazley