You only need to look at the poster to know that the makers of “Walking On Sunshine” (released in cinemas Friday 27th June) saw “Mamma Mia!” and thought ‘that looks really easy – I bet we could do that’. But where “Mamma Mia!” is a carefully crafted jukebox musical based on Abba’s phenomenal back catalogue of songs and a multi-generational pseudo-Shakespearean love story, “Walking On Sunshine” is a cobbled together film version of some photo stories from old copies of ‘Jackie’ and a cassette mix tape made by recording tracks off “Now That’s What I Call The Eighties” that somebody found in the glove compartment of a Ford Escort.
In fact, the film is so blatantly derivative that instead of writing my own synopsis, I’m going to quote, verbatim, the current synopsis on the film’s Wikipedia page: ‘Maddie is organizing her wedding with her Italian fiancé, Raf, and she invites her sister Taylor. But Maddie doesn’t know that Raf is Taylor’s ex-boyfriend and the love of her life. The film is set in Italy.’ There’s a little bit more to the plot than that, but there’s something about the way it’s so frugally phrased on Wikipedia that it feels right. The production values are low and some of the scenes so poorly composed that you begin to wonder if the directors had ever seen a camera before. The only (scant) consolation is the Italian locations are stunning and lovely to look at, despite the nonsense occurring in front of them.
The principle cast gamely mug and hoof their way through the risible dialogue and leaden choreography with all the subtlety and nuance of extras on “Coronation Street” while the back-up dancers don costume after costume for different musical numbers while still managing to be conspicuously the same dozen or so people. Seriously, keep an eye out for my personal favourite – ponytail guy. As Taylor, Hannah Arterton appealingly proves that acting talent wasn’t shared equally in the Arterton household while Annabel Scholey plays her sister Maddie with a kind of manic kookiness that just about makes the whole absurd thing work. There isn’t a single person or song who isn’t compromised by being in this cheap and tacky sixth-form-college-end-of-term standard musical, not Leona Lewis; not Katy Brand; not even Giullio Berruti (Raf) who Mrs Craggus informed me is, ‘breathtakingly sexy’, ‘gorgeous’ and ‘absolutely perfect’. Judge for yourself:
While she loved the movie (slightly ironically but mostly genuinely and possibly libidinously) and plans to see it again with her friends, I spent much of my time marvelling at how inept the whole thing is and mentally docking it point after point after point, and yet…and yet…I can’t bring myself to hate it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t come out of the film feeling cheery. It has an undeniable feelgood factor to it even though, like me, you might feel bad about feeling good.
“Walking On Sunshine” may be an unmitigated amateur cheese fest but it means well, and there are one or two moments of genuine entertainment (take a bow, Tiziana Schiavarelli). With the World Cup dominating the airwaves, it’s possible this will become a bit of a sleeper hit as WAGs everywhere look for alternative entertainment away from the telly. Cinematic prospects aside, the featherweight chick-lit plotting, crowd-pleasing megamix song choices and – have I mentioned this before? – smokin’ hot eye candy for the ladies mean this film is probably destined for a thousand and one girls’ nights in the future, its cheesy, bubby nature rivalling the pizza and Lambrini which will accompany the viewing. As a film, “Walking On Sunshine” is ridiculous, but as the cinematic equivalent of a cheap and tacky girly package holiday in the sunshine, it’s bizarrely sublime.