04/28/15 10:26am
04/28/2015 10:26 AM |


Remember when romantic comedies used to come out in theaters? Like, a lot of theaters? All at once? As recently as 2010, something like Valentine’s Day could make bank by positioning itself as a rom-com Avengers before Avengers even existed, but in the last few years they’ve all but disappeared from the release schedule beyond the occasional dude-centric take that markets itself as a long-overdue corrective to all that girl stuff. Truthfully, much of that girl stuff, at least of recent vintage, has been appalling, but it’s nonetheless strange when big studios shuck off a whole genre. Indies have taken over some of this territory, to the point where last summer’s entirely accessible and mainstream-friendly What If got a specialty-house release, seemingly just because it had English accents and Zoe Kazan (and also: girl stuff!). Similarly (and similarly British), Man Up, which premiered at the just-concluded Tribeca Film Festival, has only its modest scale and just-barely-foreign locale to mark it as anything less than a big-studio-grade romantic comedy. It’s got recognizable faces (Lake Bell, doing the best Fake Brit since Gwyneth Paltrow; and genuine Brit Simon Pegg), a farcical premise (Pegg mistakes Bell for his blind date, and she just goes with it), and hacky music cues (seriously: “Bad to the Bone,” for no discernible reason). It’s also fairly charming, not least in its modest 88-minute running time and taming of its wackier instincts. When Bell first decides to deceive Pegg, she feels her way through the contrivance with a low-key authenticity—she’s real-world funny, not mugging-lunatic funny. As silly as the premise is, the movie makes it reasonably convincing for as long as it needs to—and doesn’t string it out for that long, thankfully.