Impending nuptials inspire a series of 1980s hits in the feelgood musical Walking on Sunshine
WALKING ON SUNSHINE (12A)
Dancing queens should take a chance on Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini’s super-trouping 1980s jukebox musical.
Walking on Sunshine sincerely flatters the creative team behind Mamma Mia! by reusing their template for a soapy summertime wedding on sun-drenched Mediterranean shores.
The toe-tapping Abba songbook has been supplanted by hits including Don’t You Want Me by The Human League, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper, Venus by Bananarama and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham!
In all other respects, Giwa and Pasquini’s frothy romp nods affectionately, some might say shamelessly, to the UK’s most successful film musical of all time, contriving sinewy subplots around the song lyrics.
Consequently, the heroine’s lusty sister debates fondling a beau’s pecs to a primal growl of “Well I guess it would be nice, if I could touch your body...” from George Michael’s Faith.
Three years after an intense holiday fling, good girl Taylor (Hannah Arterton) flies back to southern Italy for a well-deserved break after her university finals.
She arrives at the airport and skips merrily through a full-scale flash mob to strains of Holiday by Madonna.
Taylor’s impulsive sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey), who recently broke up with her long-term boyfriend Doug (Greg Wise), has been staying in the coastal town to “man-tox”.
Shockingly, Maddie has fallen head-over-heels for one of the locals and intends to get married in two days.
It transpires that the groom-to-be is Raphael (Giulio Berruti), the same strapping hunk who previously swept Taylor off her feet and still makes her thrum with delight.
Taylor and Raphael agree to conceal their shared history from the blushing bride and they compel good friends Elena (Leona Lewis), Enrico (Giulio Corso), Lil (Katy Brand) and Mikey (Danny Kirrane) to perpetrate the lie.
While Taylor wrestles with her emotions, warbling Eternal Flame by The Bangles on the beach as the sun sets, Doug arrives in Puglia, intent on wooing back Maddie.
Walking on Sunshine is as predictable as an early World Cup exit for the England football squad but the directors’ lightweight ode to summertime romance is a guilty pleasure.
Musical numbers are slickly choreographed but emotion tends to lurk in the shadow of the gym-toned flesh glistening in sun cream.
Arterton has an appealing innocence while Berruti is impossibly good-looking, dutifully removing his shirt at regular intervals to induce a heatwave in the target female audience.
X Factor winner Lewis looks comfortable dancing and lip-synching in her big screen acting debut.
Sexual innuendo abounds in Joshua St Johnson’s characterization-light script that bounces with energy and knows its limitations.
Subtlety isn’t a strong point and the colour palette is equally lurid: the intense orange of tans sears the retinas as much as the brightly hued swimwear.
Pack sunglasses as a precaution.
If food be the music of love then Chef composes a mouth-watering symphony of Cuban flavours to delight the palate of World Cup-weary audiences, who crave a heart-warming drama garnished with gentle humour.
Written and directed by Jon Favreau, this uplifting confection works to a tried and tested recipe of triumph against adversity, and taps into the rising popularity of food trucks as a lunchtime hang-out for famished American office workers.
Snappily edited scenes of high quality produce being transformed into plates of calorie-loaded deliciousness make any hot dogs, nachos and popcorn from the concessions stand look bland by comparison.
Be grateful that the Smell-O-Vision and AromaRama systems, which heightened the immersive experience of films by releasing scents into the theatre, never gained traction otherwise Chef’s 114-minute running time would be exquisite, stomach-rumbling agony.
By the end credits, my appetite was well and truly whetted for one of the film’s Cubano pressed sandwiches filled with juicy roast pork, boiled ham and molten Swiss cheese.
The culinary wizard responsible for this raging hunger is Carl Casper (Favreau), who is the star attraction at a Los Angeles restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman).
Prestigious food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), who reportedly sold his online blog for $10m, makes a reservation at the restaurant and Carl excitedly plans a new tasting menu with sous chef Tony (Bobby Cannavale), line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) and sassy hostess Molly (Scarlett Johansson).
“You know what I would do? Play your hits,” argues Riva and he forces Carl to revert to his signature dishes.
Ramsey’s poor review, which berates Carl for resting on his laurels, ignites a bitter war of words on Twitter.
“You wouldn’t know a good meal if it sat on your face!” the chef informs Ramsey.
Their argument spirals out of control and Carl publicly quits his job.
Ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) invites Carl to accompany her and their young son Percy (Emjay Anthony) to Miami to reconnect with his roots.
In familiar surroundings, Carl entertains Inez’s canny suggestion of a food truck and the chef transforms a worn-out vehicle into a mobile eaterie par excellence with help from Percy and Martin.
Chef wears its heart on its olive oil-spattered sleeve, establishing an emotional divide between Carl and his son, which might be bridged as they spend valuable time together on the road.
Social media assumes a pivotal role in the script and Favreau employs sparing visual effects to illustrate how Percy builds word of mouth for the food truck by harnessing the power of the internet.
Favreau and Anthony are an adorable pairing, and Robert Downey Jr injects ribald humour to his fleeting scenes as Inez’s germ-phobic first ex-husband.
Heartfelt scenes of confession and reconciliation ensure tears flow as freely as the overpriced vino from Riva’s cellar.