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Man Up by Wendy Wang (Review)

posted Jun 17, 2015, 4:36 PM by Kaya Savas

Man Up is a comedy about a teen slacker who gets his Mormon girlfriend pregnant and has to immediately grow up and change his life. This isn’t to be confused with the Simon Pegg film of the same name. Man Up’s comedy is definitely physical with lots of gag scenarios. This is the directorial debut of actor Justin Chon who was in the Twilight films and 21 & Over. It also marks the composing debut of Wendy Wang. The film is very low budget so I’m sure the cast and crew is made up of lots of friends and acquaintances. Wendy Wang is a Los Angeles native who has a rich musical background. Here she is able to put on display a fantastic stylistic approach that ultimately is just used to pepper the film with sound bursts instead of actually writing a score.

Sadly, there isn’t much music here and therefore it doesn’t congeal into anything beyond stylistic 80’s aesthetic bursts. There are 21 tracks that total 19-minutes of score, with a couple songs by Wendy and other collaborators. So in a sense, the music really is only adding a sonic style for the film to exist around. The sound is very punchy and attention-grabbing, which is great. It totally fits the film’s aesthetic, and probably tries its best to stay away from the comedy onscreen. That is an important thing to remember, this film’s comedy is physical with tons of falling and wide-eyed expressions. I think “goofy” would be a good term to describe it. So it’s possible the directive was to only provide musical punches instead of fabricating a traditional score. But even if that was indeed the case, you’d still want the music to be doing something more even in a screwball comedy. And the music here simply fails to do anything emotional or character-driven.

Man Up provides an interesting retro soundscape for this screwball comedy, and definitely shows newcomer Wendy Wang has talent. But as a score it’s not doing much in terms of narrative supplement. The bursts of music serve really only one purpose, and that’s to be loud and stylistic. I know comedy is hardest genre when it comes to music, but there was definitely room to do something more substantial and developed here.