Film review: Walking on Sunshine (12A, 97 min)

Walking On Sunshine: Hannah Arterton as Taylor and Annabel Scholey as Maddy
Walking On Sunshine: Hannah Arterton as Taylor and Annabel Scholey as Maddy
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As predictable as England’s exit

Dancing queens should take a chance on Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini’s super-trouping 1980s jukebox musical.

Walking On Sunshine sincerely flatters the creative team behind Mamma Mia! by reusing their template for a soapy summertime wedding on sun-drenched Mediterranean shores.

The toe-tapping ABBA songbook has here been
supplanted by hits including Don’t You Want Me by The Human League, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper, Venus by Bananarama and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham!

In all other respects, Giwa and Pasquini’s frothy romp nods affectionately, some might say shamelessly, to the UK’s most successful film musical of all time, contriving sinewy subplots around the song lyrics.

Consequently the heroine’s lusty sister debates fondling a beau’s pecs to a primal growl of: “ I guess it would be nice, if I could touch your body...” from George Michael’s Faith.

Three years after an intense holiday fling, good girl Taylor (Hannah Arterton) flies back to southern Italy for a well-deserved break after her university finals.

She arrives at the airport and skips merrily through a full-scale flash mob to strains of Holiday by Madonna.

Taylor’s impulsive sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey), who recently broke up with her long-term boyfriend Doug (Greg Wise), has been staying in the coastal town to “man-tox”.

Shockingly, Maddie has fallen head-over-heels for one of the locals and intends to get married in two days.

It transpires that the groom-to-be is Raphael (Giulio Berruti), the same strapping hunk who previously swept Taylor off her feet and still makes her thrum with delight.

Taylor and Raphael agree to conceal their shared history from the blushing bride and they compel good friends Elena (Leona Lewis), Enrico (Giulio Corso), Lil (Katy Brand) and Mikey (Danny Kirrane) to perpetrate the lie.

While Taylor wrestles with her emotions, warbling Eternal Flame by The Bangles on the beach as the sun sets, Doug arrives in Puglia, intent on wooing back Maddie.

Walking On Sunshine is as predictable as an early World Cup exit for the England football squad but the directors’ lightweight ode to summertime romance is a guilty pleasure.

The musical numbers are slickly choreographed but emotion tends to lurk in the shadow of the gym-toned flesh glistening in sun cream.

Arterton has an appealing innocence while Berruti is impossibly good-looking, dutifully removing his shirt at regular intervals to induce a heatwave in the target female audience.

X Factor winner Lewis looks comfortable dancing and lip-synching in her big screen acting debut.

Sexual innuendo abounds in Joshua St Johnson’s characterization-light script that bounces with energy and knows its limitations.

Subtlety isn’t a strong point and the colour palette is equally lurid: the intense orange of tans sears the retinas as much as the brightly hued swimwear.

Pack sunglasses as a precaution.

Musical/Romance/Drama/Comedy. Hannah Arterton, Annabel Scholey, Giulio Berruti, Katy Brand, Leona Lewis, Giulio Corso, Danny Kirrane, Greg Wise. Directors: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini.