* (out of five)
Simon Pegg is a talented and successful man of the movies. Besides Spaced and “the Cornetto trilogy” of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End – his almost always excellent collaborations with writer / director Edgar Wright – and his occupation of second-tier funnyman in the Mission Impossible, Star Trek and (new) Star Wars franchises, he’s also a seriously well-endowed screenwriter, including being one of only two credited writers on the next Trek flick. So what in the world is he doing in this abomination of a RomCom? What could he have possibly seen in Tess Morris’s laugh-free script?
Perhaps the whole thing is intended as post-modern, including, as it does, every single RomCom cliché from the manual, including the running and public declaration at the end. But it’s not funny ironic, it’s not funny straight, it’s not funny anything. It’s embarrassing from start to finish and Pegg looks deeply uncomfortable in it.
He and Lake Bell (an American doing, it must be said, a flawless Brit accent) play a couple of Londonistas who meet on a blind date meant for someone else (in that he was meant to meet a different she under a clock, but she happened to be standing there). We follow them through an afternoon into an evening, painfully.
The film, directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie) looks awful. Scenes in a bowling alley and Waterloo Station, in particular, are about as horribly lit as you can imagine cinema being capable of short of the camera pointed directly at a naked bulb. There is a fine piece of character work being done by always reliable Rory Kinnear. The rest is drivel.
***1/2 (out of five)
Oscar-winning doco maker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) has made a revealing and sweet film about Malala Yousafzai and her dad Ziauddin, which can’t help but be thirty percent or so more resonant seen in the week of the Paris attacks. Malala was shot in the face by the Taliban as Paris has metaphorically been shot in the face by ISIS, and her response is brave and moving.
We all should remember the details of Malala’s attack, so the film gives us just enough material there. It is strongly focused on Malala’s work since healing, including visiting various countries to lend her support to various causes (including the kidnapped schoolgirls incident in Chibok, Nigeria). It contrasts her sudden worldwide fame and influence with charming scenes of her domestic life in Birmingham, UK, and reminds you consistently but never heavy-handedly just how awful the Taliban is.
But where the film glows is its depiction of Malala’s relationship with her Dad, Ziauddin, himself an inspiring, influential and brave activist. “He named her Malala” after an important folk heroine, and together, they are something to behold. Guggenheim’s film is not the kind that demands a big screen, but if you do see it at the cinema you might get what I got: that rare phenomenon of spontaneous audience applause at the film’s conclusion. If that’s because we were all thinking of Paris along with Malala, all the better.