A top-notch romantic comedy, Man Up follows Lake Bell’s Nancy as she impulsively pretends to be Jack’s (Simon Pegg) blind date and the two embark on a very long night rife with wacky shenanigans. It’s a fairly conventional setup that’s employed as a springboard for a progressively engrossing (and surprisingly subversive) genre exercise, as filmmaker Ben Palmer, working from Tess Morris’ screenplay, delivers a fast-paced, compulsively watchable narrative that’s been peppered with several thoroughly engaging set pieces – although it remains clear throughout that Man Up‘s success is due in no small part to the efforts of its stars. Bell and Pegg manage to transform their respective characters into affable and seriously compelling figures one can’t help but sympathize with and root for, and it’s clear, too, that the palpable chemistry between Nancy and Jack goes a long way towards smoothing over the picture’s few missteps (including a recurring bit involving Rory Kinnear’s perverted bowling-alley employee). The movie’s agreeable vibe is enhanced by Morris’ effective handling of the various conventions associated with stories of this ilk, as the screenwriter uses certain cliches quite effectively (eg the last-minute race to a loved one) and puts a decidedly unpredictable spin on others (eg Nancy’s deception is revealed much earlier than anticipated). The unabashedly romantic final stretch ensures that Man Up ends on as spellbinding and satisfying a note as one could’ve hoped for, which certainly does confirm the film’s place as one of the new century’s very best romcoms.
**** out of ****