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Very few films aspire to the heights (or, more accurately, depths) of
chirpy cheesiness achieved by Mamma Mia!: a cinematic guilty pleasure
if ever there was one. Walking On Sunshine is that rare film which
does. In fact, it's dancing merrily into theatres, so intent on
recreating the unexpected blockbuster success of Mamma Mia! that it's
forgotten to tweak the formula even a little bit. And so, we go from
the sun-washed beaches of Greece to the sun-washed beaches of Italy,
from cheesy but super-catchy ABBA tunes to cheesy but super-catchy 80s
pop hits, from an awkward love affair to... an awkward love affair. Do
you see where we're going here? The unfortunate thing is that Walking
On Sunshine never quite hits on that elusive magic which allowed Mamma
Mia! to be so bad and so darn good at the same time.
Here's how the story (what little there is of it) goes: Taylor (Hannah
Arterton) meets and falls in love with gorgeous Italian hunk Raf
(Giulio Berruti) on a sun-kissed beach in Italy. But the summer is
drawing to an end, and she has to be responsible and go back to school.
Three years later, when she finally graduates, Taylor returns to the
same Italian village to meet her headstrong, impulsive sister Maddie
(Annabel Scholey) - whereupon she learns that Maddie, on the rebound
from her horrible ex Doug (Greg Wise), is due to get married in a
matter of days. The twist in the tale, of course, is that Maddie is
planning to marry Raf - the love of Taylor's life.
In other words, the plot, such as it is, is flimsy and contrived. The
narrative staggers predictably from song to song, whether it's Taylor
and Raf realising they still have feelings for each other (It Must Have
Been Love), or Doug and Maddie crooning about their toxic relationship
(Don't You Want Me). The characters seem to function on the basis of
narrative expediency: Doug, for instance, waltzes in and out of the
film, teetering dangerously between unforgivable jerk and viable love
interest. Truth be told, if you're looking for depth or complexity,
look away now. The film seems to operate on the blithe assumption that
yet another karaoke-friendly song will sweep away the awkward writing
that preceded it.
The film also falters somewhat where its cast is concerned. All of them
are earnest to a fault, belting their numbers with more passion than
skill. They certainly work incredibly hard at playing characters with
little more complexity than a batch of paper dolls: Arterton is the
textbook lovelorn but responsible girl, torn between her head and her
heart, while Scholey sizzles efficiently as the bubbly Maddie. But they
never really manage to give off the sheer, unmitigated joy that
practically radiated from the A-list cast populating the Greek islands
in Mamma Mia!. Of the supporting cast, comedienne Katy Brand wins most
charismatic honours as the sisters' best friend Lil - not something
that can be said of X-Factor winner Leona Lewis, who should really
stick to her day job.
To be fair, Walking On Sunshine does have its merits. If you're in the
right mood for it, it's a silly, summery burst of fun - not quite as
funny and sweet as you might want, but good enough in a pinch. Its
soundtrack is great, jumping from Madonna (Holiday) to George Michael
(Faith), before taking a delightful detour into tomato-strewn mayhem in
the huge musical number that accompanies the title song. There are even
a couple of unexpectedly rich character moments that come courtesy of
the two sisters: Taylor's bravery in returning for Maddie's wedding is
a surprisingly emotional moment and one of the high points of the film.
Of course, when it comes down to it, no amount of critical analysis
will matter anyway. Walking On Sunshine is, quite simply, the kind of
film that's largely critic-proof. It may not even be as good as Mamma
Mia!, and its story and characters are almost wilfully
poorly-constructed. But it won't matter because the film is also
relentlessly fun, silly, sunny, and cheesy. Berruti is gorgeous to look
at, as are the sun-kissed beaches of Italy. The songs are catchy,
summery and joyous. That certainly doesn't add up to 'great' but, if
you're open to it, it just might add up to 'good enough'.
Tags for Walking On Sunshine Full Movie
, Greg Wise
, Hannah Arterton
, Joelle Koissi
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