If Hannah Arterton was plucked from obscurity to play the role of Taylor in Walking on Sunshine, then it is from obscurity she came, and back to obscurity she will go. I don’t even have to be unkind in describing how her flat, motionless acting ability was nearly cringe worthy – because this isn’t the type of film you attend in order to see anything even comparable to Oscar winning performances – but a little relating can go a long way.
And that’s an issue which seems to plague ‘Walking On Sunshine’ from the moment the waves first crash up against the Italian beach in the opening moments of the film. Here we see “Raf” and Taylor enjoying a holiday romance, enraptured in the moment, as Raf asks Taylor to stay and not go anywhere. Taylor responds that she can’t because she needs to return to England and start University. I can’t find Arterton’s age anywhere online but I’m assuming she’s not trying to look in her late 20’s for the purposes of the script – an important piece of background information she’s just failed to convince me is genuine. And the person who applied her eyeliner in the ‘Power of Love’ scene needs to be fired. Right now.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh, this is a musical after all, the film combining some of the greatest hits of the 80’s and wrapping them up in between a flimsy story line. In the same way as some American studios have recently tried to introduce money into pornography (no, believe me, it’s true) I’ve actually seen better scripted XXX rated movies than some of the “filler” dialogue occurring on screen.
Taylor graduates from University and returns to the scene of her holiday three years later – in an effort to make the character as cliche and generic as possible there’s absolutely no mention of what she studied or really any thought to her personality – while the sister she visits (a sister who, script be believed, has been living in Italy for five weeks at her sister’s expense and doesn’t even bother meeting her at the airport) has gone to Italy for something one character calls a “mantox” and found herself in the arms of a new love. Worse still, she’s getting married in two days, and disregards the advice of her (by her own admission) more intelligent sister who tells her she’s absolutely mad.
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Taylor heads for the beach to meet “the old gang” and is elated to find a group of people (most of whom are ex-patriots) living on the beach with no real sign of income. Despite how happy Taylor is to see these close personal friends there has been zero communication with them for the past three years, absolutely no mention of Facebook or mobile phones and you’d believe Taylor didn’t get a single chance for a holiday or quick break during three years of her University course – whatever it was she studied again. Leona Lewis plays Elena, a pretty faceless cliche friend who decided to remain in Italy and take the “road less traveled” with her Italian lover Enrico. I’ll assume her parents weren’t worried she never obtained a Third Level Education or even returned to England once after that holiday romance three years ago to settle her affairs. But we’re not living in the real world.
Best friend to sisters Maddie and Taylor is Erotic fiction writer Lil, played by comedian Katy Brand, which itself is a bit of a disappointment because I actually like Ms Brand as a comedian (I’m saying this because she slips in a DC Comics reference to this film). I found her hosting of the 2011 Children In Need special of Never Mind the Buzzcocks was particularly good. Anyway, Ms Brand won’t mind me saying that – much like myself – she is a larger person and films this role by being the very typical – and again cliche – big fat friend. While I’m not objecting to Lil having friends like these I’m wondering why a seemingly extremely successful author would need to keep the company of two stick insect and glamorously pretty girls. During the group’s first meal together Lil tells Mikey (a larger man) that she is in Italy and doesn’t intend on “ordering the fish and chips” when he flirts with her. Good grief. While I’m all for Ms Brand asserting her individuality and not just simply hooking the ONLY two larger people in the film up – I don’t understand why that’s exactly what happens by the end? Yes, you can find love, but only with someone proportionality the same size in your group of friends.
Ms Brand’s character has this incredibly annoying habit of using her eyebrows to signify intrigue or hidden jokes between the friends, which makes it look just so much more cheesy than it needs to be, especially in the scene in which she asks Raf to leave so that everyone can prepare for Maddie’s hen night. Only problem is that Maddie has just discovered Taylor and Raf together in tears, alone in the dark, and they should probably all discuss this properly before the wedding tomorrow. But no, instead they go out on the pull, while the boys head to a strip club. The feminists are going to love this one!
The film takes a spin through a collection of songs including Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ and Huey Lewis and the News ‘Power of Love’ (couldn’t you just leave Back to the Future alone?) but it’s not until Doug (played by Greg Wise) shows up that we’re treated to some of the most questionable innuendo driven dialogue in existence – because of this I assumed that we would, at very least, see some kind of sexual encounter between the characters – but there’s actually not a single thing like that in here (which, considering you might want to flog this to 12 year old girls, is probably for the best). Doug – an ex lover of Maddie – tries to convince her she’s making a mistake. At the same time Taylor is lying about the fact that she knows Raf and he is this mysterious ex-boyfriend she speaks of cryptically at the beginning of the film…it gets even worse when Doug invites Maddie out to a meal, toasts her wedding (the following morning) and says he’d like to find himself inside her. I think there was a quiet pause in the cinema at this moment as the audience wondered whether they’d be forgiven for laughing at such an obviously filthy joke.
By the end of the film (a film in which Cher does not make an appearance but her words are used to mend broken hearts) there is only the question of why Michael Bolton’s ‘How Can We Be Lovers’ wasn’t used? Furthermore, this is the kind of DVD that I could sit and trash, but which still sell thousands as long as University’s admit young women and ice cream is available behind store counters. While I’d be slightly interested to see whether there were any additional songs added to a later “home video” release I wouldn’t hold my breath for a complete director’s cut in which that Meat Loaf cameo turns into a performance of ‘I’m Gonna Love Her for Both of Us’ – Walking On Sunshine is cliche, badly scripted, badly cast, poorly directed and hopelessly cheesy – but, despite all that, isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever see on screen and can be forgiven for all these sins because Pierce Brosnan attempted to sing in Mamma Mia – and none of the cast are THAT bad. The only objection I have about this movie is that the money couldn’t have been used to make a better film, I salute the scriptwriter for managing to get his name on a major motion picture release, even when he only had to couple together a few lines of dialogue not worth the standard in a porno.