Film Review: Walking on Sunshine (2014)

“I’m not one of those people who goes wobbly when a boy take his shirt off”

You had me at 80s jukebox musical… Sometimes, after a crappy Wednesday in the office, all you really need is some uncomplicated, good-natured fun and that is exactly what Walking On Sunshine provides. A fresh-faced cast, the glorious Puglian sunshine, some nifty group dance routines and a track-listing that opens with the holy trifecta of Madonna’s ‘Holiday’, Bananarama’s ‘Venus’ and Whitney’s ‘How Will I Know’ – you pretty much know what you’re getting with this film (I won a bet by guessing one of the final plot flourishes just 10 minutes in) and on leaving the cinema, its fun and exuberance had done its job.

Joshua St Johnston’s writing is naff in the extreme, never quite living up to the (Italian) tongue-in-cheek spirit it opens with as Maddie (Annabel Scholey) invites her sister Taylor (Hannah Arterton) and erotic novelist friend Lil (Katy Brand) to her holiday home to surprise her with news of a lightning fast wedding to a man who just happens to be Taylor’s holiday romance three years prior, although she remains blissfully unaware of the fact. Scholey and Arterton are great value for money, throwing themselves whole-heartedly into the whole shebang – the former turns out to be quite the dancer too – and delivering 80s fierceness.

Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini’s direction clearly owes a big debt to Mamma Mia! but there’s just a whole extra layer of fun here that makes it fly so much better, just like Greg Wise at the end. Witty choices of music – George Michael’s ‘Faith’ is used to great effect, the marketplace ‘Don’t You Want Me’ crackles with sensuality and the final chapel-based scene both surprised and delighted me with its particular selection – combine with some ingenious choreography – ‘Venus’ by a swimming pool is strikingly done, the co-ordination of the beach-goers in ‘How Will I Know’ is also excellent – it just never takes itself too seriously.

Of course it isn’t flawless, there’s all sorts of oddities in here. The most random eating of an apple mid-scene that I have EVER seen, the underwritten supporting roles (it would have been nice to see more of Danny Kirrane and Katy Brand, that said, one has to be grateful for the barely-there presence of Leona Lewis as an old friend of Taylor’s, and the complete Ken-doll blankness of male lead Giulio Berruti – an indubitably extremely handsome gentleman but one utterly lacking any sexuality or charisma at all. But to pick holes in a film like this to really miss the point; indeed to suggest that the Smiths ought to be on the soundtrack calls into question the point of you being a reviewer…

We saw this in the Impact screen of the Leicester Square Empire cinema which is a mighty fine screening room and I have to say I’m grateful to the guy on the front desk who told us not to book the beanbags at the front, you’d get the mother of all cricks in the necks sitting down there. But armed with good spirits and good seats, it proved to be a most enjoyable evening and if you ever see a better Tina Turner impersonation, then please do let me know!

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