[ Directors: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini; Screenwriter: Joshua St. Johnston; Starring: Annabel Scholey, Greg Wise, Hannah Arterton, Leona Lewis, Adrian Palmer; Running time: 97 minutes; Certification: 12A ]
To be as fair as possible to Walking On Sunshine, the idea of a sprightly musical based on a range of hits from the 80s sounds as fun it does terrible. Sure the plot of this breezy, extraordinarily well-behaved (hopeful) summer hit is the most contrived, predictable piece of fodder that does its utmost to spent 100 minutes without even attempting emotional engagement (or, as some may argue, attempting but failing drastically), but on the other hand, it’s set in sunny Italy, features ‘The Power Of Love’ and passes the Bechdel test. Just.
So here’s the deal: there’s nothing to actively hateful here. For all intents and purposes it’s a perfectly innocent film, wearing its intentions on its sleeve from the very start…it’s just a bit naff. While ever possible to do the camp musical in a way that lets you laugh and have fun with it (look at Grease, or even High School Musical), in this case the film tends to be more interested in just partying on itself rather than ever inviting the audience. At times it’s a good romp, sure, but it really depends on what the song is and who’s singing. Strangely enough, the plot isn’t even particularly tailored around the lyrics; some of the songs fit into what’s happening at the time, others just crop up when they feel like it. Beyond that, every one of them is treated like a final number, and they often look rather synthetic. Perhaps Les Miserables set the mark too high for the realism of the musical, but even so, nothing but the film itself is at fault for lips not always moving in time with the words.
The performances aren’t bad – singing quality inevitably varies between individuals – but generally speaking it’s well played. As a huge fan of musicals it’s hard to be too down on such an inoffensive piece of fluff, but it’s important to look past a few nice songs to really see what’s going on underneath it all. Grease, Les Misérables, Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story; amongst others, they all have a commentary running through the centre, a story and meaning that in some way transcends the music. Walking On Sunshine certainly does what it says on the tin, but it could do with looking down once in a while.