What happens when 2 sisters reunite in gorgeous Puglia, Italy – where one is set to marry the other’s secret holiday fling? That’s as simple as the plot gets in Walking on Sunshine, an energetic musical full of guilt-free pleasure with a generous side order of barefaced unoriginality.
From Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” to Madonna’s “Holiday”, the film’s upbeat covers of 80’s hits will make singing along simply irresistible. In fact, it feels like you’re watching a rerun of the sun-soaked Mamma Mia with the same plotlines of relationship entanglements and sisterly love, where sensible Taylor (Hannah Arterton) must battle residual feelings when her bubbly sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey) scores her ex-Italian flame Raf (Giulio Berruti).
How can we expect any less of this Mamma Mia-esque setup from the directors of Street Dance 3D, who also rehashed the wildly popular Step Up series? Using lines like Katrina and the Waves’ “I used to think maybe you loved me” to open scenes, Walking on Sunshine directors Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini will keep using cross-talking lyrics you know and love so well, you’d follow the whirlwind plot anyway.
While a movie musical calls for song and dance, Walking on Sunshine’s rendition is anything but smooth. Characters often pause abruptly to burst into numbers and the encapsulation of each scene with songs causes the film to lurch from one development to another. Without its bop-worthy music and sprightly cast as a soothing distraction, the sudden breaks in plot transition can prove to be disjointed and overwhelming.
Lower your expectations with the footwork too. Walking on Sunshine warrants an ‘A’ for effort, but also fails for unrefined choreography. In Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love”, even the extras obviously struggled with their simple dance moves (a background couple could be visibly seen performing a half-baked female lift). Indeed, the entire cast had to settle for painfully clichéd basics from waving their hands in the air to skipping en masse down a cobbled street.
If this summer flick had any saving grace, it would be the presence of its endearing cast members. From the lustful, ‘never gonna give you up’ Doug (Greg Wise) to mischievous ‘big sister’ Lil (Katy Brand), their fresh enthusiasm and sincere acting will warm audiences when all else fails.
Walking on Sunshine also includes Leona Lewis’ acting debut, where the X-Factor champion earnestly lends her voice and talent as the gentle Elena, Taylor’s best friend.
Vocals wise, the wooden Berruti was Walking on Sunshine’s answer to Mamma Mia’s Pierce Brosnan. Even with Arterton’s honeyed voice, nothing could cover his wince-inducing vocals in the otherwise commendable covers of Rosetta’s hit “It Must Have Been Love” and Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time”.
Despite the frills like captivating shots of beaches, hot men, and quintessentially Italian features from southern Puglia’s La Tomatina Festival to Vespas and town squares, the movie simply lacks substance.
Even supporting characters are reduced to mere sideshows, such as best man Mikey (Danny Kirrane), whose constant slapstick moves make him a mere tool for comedy relief. Also, Raf’s other best man, Enrico (Giulio Corso), contends with just slow-mo shots of his drool-worthy washboard abs in exchange for a few stoic lines.
“Let’s just pretend it pretty much never happened because it never did,” said Taylor of her summer romance. Those words can’t be prophetic enough for a movie with pretty much nothing to show except a feel-good vibe. Like a fleeting holiday fling, Walking on Sunshine promises to be a ball of fun but if you ask me, don’t go searching this film for memorable quality.
Release Date: 27 June 2014 (10 July 2014 for Singapore)
Runtime: 97 minutes
Censorship Rating: PG (With some sexual references)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Directors: Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini
Main Actors: Annabel Scholey, Giulio Berruti, Hannah Arterton, Leona Lewis, Katy Brand, Greg Wise, Danny Kirrane, Giulio Corso
- “Holiday” (Madonna) by Hannah Arterton
- “Venus” (Bananarama) by Katy Brand, Annabel Scholey and Hannah Arterton
- “How Will I Know” (Whitney Houston) by Hannah Arterton, Danny Kirrane, Giulio Corso and Leona Lewis
- “The Power of Love” (Huey Lewis and the News) by Hannah Arterton, Annabel Scholey, Katy Brand, Danny Kirrane, Giulio Corso, Giulio Berruti and Leona Lewis
- “Don’t You Want Me” (The Human League) by Greg Wise and Annabel Scholey
- “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina and the Waves) by Leona Lewis, Hannah Arterton, Katy Brand, Danny Kirrane, Giulio Corso and Giulio Berruti
- “Eternal Flame” (The Bangles) by Hannah Arterton
- “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Cyndi Lauper) by Leona Lewis, Hannah Arterton and Katy Brand
- “The Wild Boys” (Duran Duran) by Danny Kirrane, Giulio Corso and Giulio Berruti
- “It Must Have Been Love” (Roxette) by Hannah Arterton and Giulio Berruti
- “Faith” (George Michael) by Greg Wise and Annabel Scholey
- “White Wedding” (Billy Idol) by Katy Brand, Danny Kirrane, Annabel Scholey, Giulio Corso, Greg Wise, Hannah Arterton and Giulio Berruti
- “If I Could Turn Back Time” (Cher) by Hannah Arterton and Giulio Berruti
- “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (Wham!) by Leona Lewis, Danny Kirrane, Katy Brand, Hannah Arterton, Annabel Scholey, Giulio Corso, Greg Wise and Giulio Berruti