British romantic comedy Man Up has an unfortunate title in both evoking an all-too tired phrase and being quite misleading, as it’s not some man-child tale and is virtually all framed from the point of view of a female character. That lead is the bumbling Nancy, played by the charismatic Lake Bell, who finds herself mistaken for a stranger’s blind date at Waterloo Station and, due to a recent motivation to take chances, decides to go along and pretend to be “Jessica”.
The accidental suitor she slowly bonds with over the course of a day is Jack, played by Simon Pegg in a welcomingly loose fashion compared to his persona of late. Things are looking great for both parties until Nancy’s true identity is revealed by a spurned childhood stalker they bump into, but further strange circumstances dictate the pair must stick with each other for one long night.
Bar a motif in which its opening and closing both involve long-take journeys through a party, this BBC Films production is visually unostentatious to the point of looking like a cheap sitcom. Elsewhere, the screenplay has some tiresome third act detours into cliche and irksome supporting character work; Rory Kinnear, as the insane stalker, at least gives it his all.
Nevertheless, Man Up has enough breezy pleasures to make it worthy of recommendation, particularly the chemistry between its leads and the dorky charms of Bell, with the American actor – an established pro at accents courtesy of her directorial debut In a World... – nailing a London makeover.