Saturday movie review: Man Up

We're taught that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I learned last week that the same should be said for movie titles — don't judge the film by its title.

If I had given in to my initial reaction to this week's film, MAN UP, based on its title, I would have missed out on a sweet, silly-yet-smart romantic comedy. The only thing that saved me from scrolling on by MAN UP while searching through Netflix was Lake Bell, whose understated, self-deprecating sense of humor always makes me chuckle.

man up movie poster

In the screwball comedy with an ill-fitting title, Bell stars as 34-year-old Nancy, who's single and fairly bitter about her string of unsuccessful setups arranged by friends and family. While traveling by train to give the speech of honor at her parents' 40th anniversary party, Nancy stumbles into a blind date scenerio — and very uncharacteristically decides to roll with it. She pretends she's the blind date 40-year-old, soon-to-be-divorced Jack (Simon Pegg) arranged with a 24-year-old based on their mutual love of a self-help book. As the date and attraction progresses, Nancy becomes more determined to keep the secret from Jack. Then a former date (hilariously creepy Rory Kinnear as Sean) enters the scene, and things get a wee bit wacky.


Lake Bell once again proves her comedic chops in this film. She nails an English accent (she's American) as well as the conflicted feelings associated with her pretending to be someone she's not while yearning to see where things might lead with Jack.

Simon Pegg, who's far from what one might imagine as a romantic lead, plays Jack with a subtle sense of humor that barely masks his heartbreak and longing for love.

The perfect performances by both keep MAN UP from falling into schmaltzy rom-com territory. All the supporting actors — most are British actors with whom I'm unfamiliar — indeed support the cause, as well. Each seems honest in his or her intentions and frustrations and are quite humorous without painfully strained attempts to elicit laughs.

Laugh and laugh my husband and I certainly did. Some of the loudest, truly laugh-out-loud moments for us were when Nancy and Jack, in the midst of an intense argument while in a nightclub, fall under the spell of a popular song and its dance moves. They both reflexively fall into the motions while bickering, never missing a step — in the dance or the dialogue. So funny. I considered finding a clip of that scene to share here, but showing it out of context just may spoil it for those who eventually watch MAN UP.

And watch it you should. It has the perfect balance of what movie lovers want from a romantic comedy: It's funny, sweet, honest, and about imperfect people making the best of their imperfect situations. Without being sickeningly sweet or over-the-top silly.

I'm compelled to add that the only difficult part of watching it is understanding the few lines where the British accents are so strong it's hard to know exactly what was said. My husband and I shared more than a few, "What did he say?" moments, for sure.

More on MAN UP, with Simon Pegg:


MAN UP (rated R for "language and sexual references") was released in theaters last November and is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming services.