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Film Review: Walking on Sunshine

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★☆☆☆☆

SunshineThe poster promised a summer hit, a mix of Mamma Mia! and Pitch Perfect which will make everyone dance in the aisles and feel great. The reality, however, is that Walking on Sunshine will make you feel ill, bored and worst of all, makes Mamma Mia! look like Citizen Kane.

Let's begin with the plot – a good a place to start as any. Set in a coastal town in present day Italy, Walking on Sunshine opens with Taylor (played by Gemma Arterton's older sister, Hannah) ending a whirlwind holiday romance with the dashing Raf (Giulio Berruti). She's about to start university and, you know, can't possibly begin a relationship. Fast forward three years and Taylor has graduated and returns to Italy for her sister's wedding. And guess who the lucky guy is?! The same guy who Taylor had a fling with all those years ago! Crazy. Do Taylor and Raf tell her sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey), or should they keep quiet and hope she doesn't find out? There, in a nutshell, is the plot which is so unintelligent and boring that it will anaesthetise large sections of the audience.

One of the first scenes sees Taylor arrive at the airport and the passport man asks her: “business or holiday?”. And then, because it's a musical and people do this sort of thing, she launches into Madonna's “Holiday”, complete with stupid dance routines and from then on, we know we're stuck in this musical hell. The songs don't get much better when the ensemble cast join in. Leona Lewis makes her film début and, although the girl sure can sing, her acting leaves less to be desired. In fact, you know what, the whole cast looks like they had a ball filming the movie: always a sign that the audience will definitely be having less fun!

To be fair to the cast, they do have plenty of energy but the singing is auto-tuned to within an inch of its pathetic life. We're treated/subjected to vacuous renditions of classics such as “Eternal Flame” and “If I Could Turn Back Time”. More generally, the songs (of which there are far too many) share no common theme or thread, aside from the decade of their release and the plot lists from one to another as a drunken man does when bothering people for loose change.

Greg Wise plays Doug, Maddie's ex, who attempts to win her back by, basically, stalking her. In any other film, he would have been arrested for sexual harassment. The comedy – or lack of – is another problem. Some really rather crude jokes seem rather out of place from the saccharine schmaltz and predictable dialogue which characterises the film. The narrative's twists and turns are inexplicable, drawn-out and really rather dull and offer no satisfaction at their resolution.

The central problem with the film is that it takes itself far, far too seriously. The drama played out on screen is, quite frankly, ridiculous, the characters irritating and I sat there with a look of bewilderment on my face. In fact, things got so bad at one point that I was eyeing-up the pills which an old dear sat next to me had got out from her handbag. Something to dull the pain... or end it all: either would have been preferable to the utter tosh which was slowly draining the life force from me.

Walking on Sunshine is garish film-making by numbers. A limp script, heavily-produced musical numbers, uninspiring characters and terrible direction all mix together creating a lethal cocktail of cheese, sun and sickeningly perfect smiles.

Walking on Sunshine is out in UK cinemas now.




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