The premise of Ben Palmer’s new romantic comedy Man Up is simple: Lake Bell plays Nancy, a jaded thirty-something looking to find Mr. Right and ends up stealing another woman’s blind date, who is a man named Jack (Simon Pegg). Love ensues.
Despite this bare-bones concept, the film proves to be an entertaining little romp, mostly due to the snappy dialogue and strong performances. Sure, it follows the typical rom-com formula, almost to a T, but it has fun doing so.
Taking place over the course of one eventful day with plenty of comedic hijinks, the film moves at a breakneck pace, throwing aside the main hook within the first act. We would expect Bell’s character to keep up the charade that she’s this other woman for the entirety of the film, only coming clean at the end, then Pegg’s character storms off before he realizes he loves her anyway. Fortunately, that’s not exactly how Man Up plays out, which ends up working to the film’s benefit by stripping away the gimmick and leaving us with a nice, humorous love story.
As Nancy gets to know Jack, who is handsome, funny and successful and seems to get her unique brand of humor, she realizes he’s in the process of going through a messy divorce. While he’s moved on from his wife, the wounds are still very fresh, and he’s having a rough go of things. This, coupled with Nancy’s cynical attitude of having everything in life figured out, adds a complexity to these characters and their relationship that we don’t see a lot of in these types of films.
The comedic aspects of Man Up range from chuckle worthy to absurd, throwing in a mix of rapid-fire dialogue-based humor and some physical gags that didn’t really land. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell are inherently funny people on their own, and their chemistry in this film was quite good, despite me having a hard time getting used to Bell’s faux British accent. Like many romantic comedies, as the film wore on, the humor becomes more sparse, and I found myself rolling my eyes near the all-too-sweet conclusion.
Man Up is a perfectly serviceable romantic comedy that manages to stand above most in the genre with its witty dialogue and favor of comedy over romance, but it still falls for all the tropes along the way. It’s a good pick for an evening date movie on VOD, but not one I’d immediately seek out in theaters.