Let’s get one thing straight about this movie, Man Up is very funny. Not in that cutesy “oh look how awkward they are together” kind of way you’d expect from the romantic comedy genre. Man Up isn’t afraid to pull out the raunchy and or outright bizarre jokes it wants to tell, and they work decidedly well most of the time. That’s not to say there are none of those aforementioned moments of awkward date humor, but it works well enough when Nancy (Lake Bell) and Jack (Simon Pegg) unite, because her anti-social behavior fuels the believability in it all. It bounces so well of Jack’s bubbly personality that when you see Nancy begin opening up across the course of their night together, it feels genuine.
In addition, it’s safe to say a good chunk of people are probably going to watch this movie just for Simon Pegg’s performance alone. The beauty of this though is that, while Pegg is not the main focus of the film (you have Lake Bell’s character for that), he fits so well together with Bell’s character, that it’s easy to forgive he isn’t center stage here. Thinking of them as a two piece puzzle, if you take one piece away, the film would fall apart. That’s what you should expect when watching a comedy, characters you can get behind and laugh alongside. This is easily Man Up’s strongest, and most important, detail.
However, noting the strengths from Bell and Pegg comes at a cost. Aside from a couple funny moments from the character’s exes, the supporting cast adds very little to the film’s energy. There is this one sweet moment between Nancy’s parents towards the climax, and I’d be hard pressed to say I didn’t enjoy the adorable cheesiness of their 40th anniversary party. Yet, aside from that one cute moment, it was hard to get behind any of the other supporting family members. Nancy’s sister and her husband were fairly uninteresting, and while their screen presence is minuscule, every time the film came back to them, I just kept thinking to myself “Yea that’s nice, get back to Simon Pegg and Lake Bell please”. Their relationship is really what makes this movie enjoyable, and everything thrown in between their moments together feels like little more than padding.
The worst part of it all is that despite the chemistry, the strong performances from our leads, and the surprise moments exes, the film’s climax doesn’t do enough to try and spice up the well-worn cliches of a romantic comedy. Aside from a few twists and turns, you know exactly how this film is going to end. On one hand, you could consider that a plus; it’ll play out exactly the way you want it to. Who wants to get invested in these characters and not see them achieve happiness? It just would have been nice to see the story try and pull a few more punches than end exactly the way we want it to.
However, do these nitpicks break the film from enjoyment? No, far from it. It would have been nice to see a little more effort in ending the film differently, but that’s not really what Man Up is trying to achieve. You’re not going to watch it expecting some profound shift in the entire romance brand, you’re putting on this movie because you want to see Simon Pegg and Lake Bell be funny and cute together, and that’s exactly what the film accomplishes. Even if Man Up can’t bring itself far enough above the genre cliches, no matter how hard it tries to, the film benefits largely from the hilarious dynamic between Pegg and Bell, and the humor alone is strong enough to recommend the film.