Not to sound like a language nazi, but I’ve long been slightly sceptical of anyone who uses the term, ‘guilty pleasure’. Picture two scenarios; you cheat on your significant other. It felt good in the moment, then you feel guilty. Naturally. You go to the cinema or pop on a album, hoping to be entertained. You are, but hope no one noticed…pardon me but wasn’t that the point? Are audiences that self-flagellating? Being a bit snotty about someone else’s taste is one thing, but your own? It never made sense to me and it seems people care way more about the opinions of high-brow critics than they claim to.
So when I say I didn’t much take to Walking on Sunshine, the new musical riding on the coat-tails of Mamma Mia and Pitch Perfect (high aspirations in my book), I really, really mean it. “Guilty pleasures” are kind of my thing. Call me low-brow all you like but I thought the High School Musical films were fabulous and The Sound of Music is one of my favourite movies of all time; a master-class in blending timeless musical numbers, picturesque landscapes, and characters that you really care about.
Does it look good? Absolutely, although often it felt like the cinematographer had walked directly into the sun. Are the characters in any way memorable? Well, the love triangle at the centre is quite sweet and the relationship between two motherless sisters who care more for each other than they do for the catalogue model torn between their affections is well handled. However, there is virtually nothing to separate Walking on Sunshine from a Hollyoaks summer special with musical numbers. To say that the eighties covers are shoehorned in is an understatement. There is no plausible reason for having any kind of song and dance performance other than to embellish an extremely laboured plot, and as a fan of musicals both on-stage and on-screen I never thought I would hear myself say that. Most baffling of all is the inclusion of X-Factor alumni, Leona Lewis who barely gets the chance to show off her undeniable world-class vocal talents. What is interesting however, is that she’s a pretty decent actress who if she plays her cards right could perhaps surprise us yet.
The comparison between this and Mamma Mia is actually fairly valid, insomuch as the story and its expression through song are disjointed at best and embarrassing at worst. On the other hand, the appeal of seeing respected actors quite literally casting their inhibitions into the Mediterranean sea all in the name of audience pleasure (guilty or not), combined with the joyful sounds of ABBA’s greatest hits gave it that touch of magic that Walking on Sunshine utterly lacks.
Walking on Sunshine is Out Now in Wide Release. Image Rights; Vertigo Films