Words: Lucy Cowburn
We had that one nice weekend a little while ago, the tennis has started, shops are displaying signs informing patrons that shirts are mandatory. It’s officially summer. And, what better way to celebrate the summer than by sitting in a lovely, dark, air-conditioned room watching other people enjoy the sun? Obvious rhetorical nature of that question aside, the answer’s Leona Lewis. Not content with having won that singing competition and somehow making a Snow Patrol song even more depressing, she’s taking a crack at musical cinema. Thus, Walking on Sunshine has been born; a film one must assume is meant only as a showcase of her singing talents, as none of the rest of the cast seem to have any.
I love the music in this film, I mean the original songs. No, I’m not old enough to remember the Eighties but, like pretty much everyone; I have a weak spot for the music of the decade. I don’t love what this film’s done with it. The trailer actually hurts a little bit to watch. It’s a mess of loud music, bright colours and bad acting. There’s a set piece by a swimming pool which is trying to emulate Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The only thing this nod actually does is emphasise the gap between a masterpiece of musical cinema and the endless referential nature of modern culture.
The basic plot of the film revolves around a woman, Taylor, visiting her sister Maddie in Italy. Whilst there Taylor learns that said sister is getting married to, shock horror, her old holiday fling slash love of her life. Luckily, there’s what appears to be another ex on the scene. An old acquaintance of Maddie’s shows up just at the right time intent on stopping the wedding and winning her heart. I think we can all guess how this ends. (Spoiler: it’s not quite Game of Thrones’s red wedding).
Perhaps I’m being too harsh in lambasting what is essentially a rom-com for predictability, but that’s not all that looks wrong with this film. Another of the problems is the casting. Leona Lewis is billed second, but from the looks of the trailer is a minor character and there’s no justifiable reason for this, other than acknowledging she’s just there to get people in the door. It seems as though this is a film based around stunt casting of a famous singer and a man with model good looks. The man who causes all the trouble is basically a blank canvas for the fantasies of women over thirty who believe their lives are desperately dismal because they haven’t managed to tie a man down. I’ve watched the trailer three times and still don’t know his name. The cast is rounded off by Gemma Arteton’s less-famous-for-a-reason sister and a bevy of other people more suited to drunken karaoke. It looks like a film that’s ripping off Mamma Mia! in every sense: the music, the travelogue shots, the kitsch. It’s even selling itself on this point. The problem is Mamma Mia! works because of its star power; it’s fun to watch James Bond embarrass himself dad-dancing, less so some bloke from a few episodes of Homeland.
I really want to be able to say something nice about this film, but it’s a film directed two people who come from a musical background and yet, from what the trailer shows, fail to make the musical numbers impressive. Walking on Sunshine is trying to emulate recent successes of things like Mamma Mia! and Glee, which aren’t that good in the first place. It doesn’t seem to have anything to say for itself or to add, it’s just a repeat of things that have come before and done the same thing better; and that’s why it falls down. If this film were original in even one way it would have been improved no end.
Walking on Sunshine is out on 27th June in cinemas nationwide.