Friday, 5 September 2014

Walking on Sunshine

A romantic comedy, so gripping, so engaging,  the audience I saw it with was clapping along and applauded when our two love interests finally got together... is not what this movie is.

Don't get me wrong, these things all happened, but the motivation behind it was not how immensely invested we were in the story, but rather pained sarcasm. I do not normally enjoy people talking in movies, but in rare cases it has enriched my experience. In this case, it was a sneak preview, so no one know what we were in for. We have seen some terrible movies in this setting, but rarely has one been the subject of such ridicule.

"Walking on Sunshine" is a romantic musical comedy starring Leona Lewis as the only person who can sing. Sadly, she is not our main character. The movie revolves around Taylor, who had a summer flirt with Raf when she was on vacation in Apulia, Italy. Three years later, she goes back to visit her sister, Madison, who went there to find herself after a bad breakup. When she arrives, she finds that the real purpose of her visit was to attend her sisters wedding to... well you can guess whom she's marrying. Exasperated gasps all over the audience and shenanigans ensue.

This movie fails on so many levels. "So many levels?", you say. "Name three!"

I'll do you one better and go for four.
First, the music. I'm not even going to talk about the quality of the song and dance numbers just yet. For now, lets focus on song choice. Similar to "Mamma Mia!", which featured songs by Abba, this one goes for 80s pop hits. It also goes for every cliché it can possibly get its hands on, telegraphing each song as hard as it can. The song choices are pretty uninspired, always going for the obvious choice, which I'm not sure I can count against it, because that's pretty much what pop music is about I guess, the obvious choice.

The execution is pretty underwhelming from the first number as well. Dance numbers prominently feature people reading books or newspapers in choreography and you will not believe how funny the scriptwriters felt it was to have someone tumbling backwards into a pool. It happens about six or seven times, such a prominent feature that I feared for our heroine when in the final song she is on the edge of a rooftop with Raf. Luckily the screenwriter had his instincts in check that time. The singing is mostly average with one case of heavy auto-tuning. At least Leona Lewis can sing, but she makes the rest of the cast look very bad in comparison.

Second, the "villain". As it had to happen, Madisons ex Doug shows up for the wedding, trying to convince her to take him back. At that point, the movie has spend a lot of dialogue on getting across the point that he is bad news. Imagine my surprise then, as he shows up being the most romantic and likeable person in the whole movie. When in the beginning we meet our protagonists, it tries to establish something of a "Team Taylor" vs. "Team Madison" dynamic, which by the way never pays off. From the moment Doug is on screen, most people I talked with were "Team Doug". Greg Wise obviously has the most fun of the whole ensemble and gets the most believable character arc. He is a perfect gentleman, madly in love with Madison and can read her wishes better than anyone else in the movie. I always thought that was the kind of guy women went for in Rom-Coms, but I've been wrong before.

Third, the story. When Taylor and Raf meet for the first time after their separation, not only have they the most bland meet-cute imaginable, they also decide to keep their past hidden from Madison. At that point, the movie could have taken a shortcut right to a happy ending, but instead it takes the long way round and fabricates reason after reason why Raf would be spending time with Taylor instead of his future wife, just so they can rekindle their love. It's bad, extremely forced and insults the intelligence of the viewer.

Fourth, and this is worst, this movie almost exclusively features beautiful people. That wouldn't have been so bad hadn't they decided to put in comic relief in the form of two heavy-set characters and an old Italian maid that at some points is treated dangerously close to an indentured servant. If you are not eye-candy in this movie, you can be damn sure you are comic relief. And to top that off, obviously the two only non-eye-candy characters have to end up as a couple, because come on, they belong together, you know, because lets face it, fat people belong with fat people. I don't know exactly why this bugs me as much as it does, and it isn't even that the movie portrays them as not being able to get anyone else.

So yeah, this movie made me angry, don't waste your money or your time on it. It is plain terrible.

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