UK Release Date: 27th June 2014
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini
Writer: Joshua St Johnston
Starring: Hannah Arterton, Annabel Scholey, Giulio Berruti, Leona Lewis, Katy Brand, Greg Wise
Synopsis: A young woman returning to a holiday paradise in Italy for her sister’s wedding discovers that there’s more of her past there than she ever considered.
The film adaptation of ABBA’s jukebox musical Mamma Mia! was a surprise smash hit, earning more than $600m worldwide from a tiny $50m budget. Almost entirely as a result of that success, glitter is thrown around and classic 80s pop is butchered in the significantly less than fabulous Walking On Sunshine.
Taylor (Hannah Arterton, sister of Bond girl Gemma) is back in a holiday paradise for the wedding of her sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey) to Italian hunk Raf (Giulio Berruti). She is horrified to discover that her sister’s beau is the same man with whom she had a steamy romance years previously. As Taylor fights her affections, Maddie must deal with the advances of her lecherous old flame Doug (Greg Wise).
At face value, Walking On Sunshine sounds like it could be a slice of campy fun, with its silly plotline and cheesy 80s soundtrack. Unfortunately, wafer-thin characterisation and a depressing reliance on cliché leaves the film shockingly lacking in anything resembling joy or entertainment.
| "I’m here to rescue you from making the worst mistake of your life."
From the moment bland blonde Hannah Arterton blasts into a screechy rendition of Madonna’s hit “Holiday”, the tone has been thoroughly set. Walking On Sunshine is a cringe-inducing compendium of awful acting, hideous musical numbers and a plotline that is a flow chart of genre conventions.
Arterton, Scholey and Berruti make for a remarkably dull trio of leads, with none of them giving their characters anything approaching depth. The other characters fit into standard tropes (slimy ex-boyfriend, bubbly overweight best friend, etc) and never threaten to break ground at all. It’s also concerning that a film so clearly in the “female gaze” completely flunks the Bechdel test.
The strong point of Walking On Sunshine should be in its music. The 80s tracks covered, from “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” to “The Power of Love” are loveable songs, but they are delivered with no emotion at all. These are supposed to be characters bursting into spontaneous song, but every number comes across as a bunch of actors singing words they’ve learnt from a sheet of paper.
This becomes even clearer if you compare Walking On Sunshine to last year’s far superior jukebox musical Sunshine On Leith. In that film, every song has a story hook. Even when the links are on the nose (Letter from America), the actors still portray real emotion instead of just leaping about in a spangly suit. Compare Jane Horrocks’ tearful rendition of the title song in that film to Arterton’s depressing “It Must Have Been Love”. The differences are obvious.
| "There we were on the beach, covered in tomatoes, and I just knew."
Walking On Sunshine fails where Mamma Mia! succeeded for a very simple reason. It hasn’t got a heart. The actors are clearly having fun, but there’s nothing to transfer that to the audience.
Pop or Poop?
If ever a film should’ve been an open goal, it’s a campy musical based on the cheesy pop classics of the 1980s. Walking On Sunshine manages to hit the corner flag instead.
Silliness is replaced by boredom as a succession of terrible performances make an absolute mess of a story taken straight from the “generic love story” playbook.
It’s a vacation for the actors, but a holiday from hell for everyone else.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.