Films like Walking on Sunshine make you think al-Qaeda might have a point after all. Like anybody else, I’ve got serious problems with the basic tenets of Islamic Fundamentalism, but it’s got to be better than this. Produced with a cynical eye towards snaring World Cup widows, this 80s jukebox musical is a stunningly accurate simulation of being manacled to a chair in a dodgy karaoke bar and forced to watch a bunch of jerks tunelessly disembowel pop standards.
Set in Italy, our heroine Taylor (Hannah Arterton) arrives on holiday to find that her big sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey) is getting married. But oh no! Maddie is getting married to Raf (Guilio Berruti), who, three years ago, was the holiday squeeze of Taylor. There’s a bunch of annoying stock types hanging around on the periphery (the fat and horny girl, the fat ‘joker’ guy and a rather awkward looking Leona Lewis) but, as far as plot goes, that’s about it.
But let’s cut to the chase and talk about Doug. Doug (Greg Wise) is the most repulsive thing I’ve seen in a film since The Human Centipede. He’s the ex-boyfriend of Maddie and arrives in Italy to try to convince her not to marry Raf. Oilier than the Exxon-Valdez, he’s essentially a comedy rapist, which is precisely as funny as it sounds.
Consider this: On the bride-to-be’s hen night, he breaks into her house and, wreathed in darkness, silently lurks in her bed, waiting to surprise her when she drunkenly arrives home. Upon her arrival he cavorts about her bedroom like a bonobo in heat, lasciviously rubbing himself up against the shocked woman while bellowing George Michael’s Faith. Interestingly enough, if you examine the seismic records for London on the night that I saw the film, at precisely 20:34 a tremor was detected in the Angel area. I can only assume this was caused by the entire cinema collectively shuddering at this awful, awful sight.
Bashing salt into the wound is that Greg Wise can’t even sing! I’m pretty tone-deaf myself, but even I can recognize when someone is this bad. The absolute worst the film gets is another of Doug’s songs; a nightmare cover of Don’t You Want Me Baby. Trust me, this isn’t some regular murdering of a song. No, this is a full-on Jeffrey Dahmer style murder, with stops along the way at mutilation, torture and sexual humiliation. As the horrified audience began to drift out of the theatre, I regarded them with envious eyes. But I had to stay. Like Alexander DeLarge with his eyes pinned open I remained, a rictus grin of horror burning itself onto my face as my body tried its best to retreat back into the cinema seat cushions.
What’s even more perverse than giving two songs to a man who can’t sing is that famous singer Leona Lewis doesn’t even get one! She sure as hell can’t act, so what on earth is she doing in the movie? The only conclusion I can draw from all this is that the directing team of Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini aren’t just two morons who’ve inadvertently made a crap film. Instead, they’re actively malicious towards the audience, precisely calculating the maximum pain they can inflict. How else can you explain the sheer consistency by which this film sucks? Forget the singing for a moment – even the music is painful to listen to: 80s pop music apparently rendered on via cheap MIDI keyboards, sounding more like the background music to a low-rent SNES platformer than anything you’d expect to hear in a movie.
There must be some of you thinking by now that the amount of venom I’m directing at this cinematic abortion is at least partly borne of me not being the target audience. The distributors must be cynically figuring that this is a honeypot for the Heat Magazine crowd; give them a hunky Italian who spends most of the film with his shirt off, some nostalgic pop and bing bang boom they’ll be pissed on Malibu and dancing around their handbags by the end of the first reel.
Fortunately, even they hated it. You could have heard a mouse cough during the ‘jokes’ (which are largely predicated on people being pushed into swimming pools). Throughout the film audience members gradually trickled away, having obviously figured that there are infinitely better ways to spend their time than watching this shoddy guff. The biggest reaction the film ever got was in the climactic wedding sequence – at the emotional climax Arterton began to sing If I Could Turn Back Time. A mixture of embarrassed giggles and snorts of derision rippled through the audience and an odd sense of relief came with it; prior to this moment we’d been frozen in silent disgust for 90 minutes, but at least we now knew everybody here was united in their hatred.
I have seen some crappy films lately, but none of them has left me as bruised, traumatized and cheapened as Walking on Sunshine did. This is cinema without an ounce of passion, skill or intelligence. Honestly, the only way to conclude this review is with the immortal words of Colonel Kurtz: “The horror! The horror”
If you threw a camera, boom mic and clapper board into the monkey enclosure at the zoo they'd produce something more worthwhile than Walking On Sunshine.