Romantic it isn't, but Lake Bell and Simon Pegg still sizzle in this perfectly British love story

Some very strange things happen in Man Up, Ben Palmer’s surprisingly likeable romantic comedy, starring Simon Pegg and Lake Bell.

For example, Pegg is only slightly irritating; an American actress pulls off a serviceable English accent; and Rory Kinnear strips to his boxer shorts in a bowling alley.

But strangest of all is the film’s idea of romance. Call me old-fashioned, but I fail to see how having sex with a stranger in the downstairs lavatory of your parents’ house is romantic. And yet – spoiler alert! – this is how the film climaxes. Worse still, a man takes a woman to London’s Southbank for a first date. Can there be a less romantic stretch of concrete in Britain?

Nancy (Bell) plays a thirty-something Bridget Jones-type character. Unlucky in love, she is resigned to a life of junk food, tequila, cats and loneliness.

On the way to her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, however, she is mistakenly identified as the blind date who Jack (Pegg) has been waiting for at Waterloo station. Nancy goes along with it – her New Year’s resolution was to “take more chances” – and the two of them wind up having a ball together.

Ignore the sieve-like plot, though, because the script is largely excellent. Pegg and Bell sizzle on screen together, trading flirty one-liners and bitchy ripostes like well-timed high fives. Almost all of the jokes come off. “So you’re a triathlete?” asks Jack, who has done his research before the blind date. “Just got to regularly carb up,” nods Nancy, as she munches her way through a packet of crisps to help soak up the booze.

Kinnear almost steals the show as an unhinged old schoolfriend of Nancy’s, who has the power to give the game away, and Ken Stott is delightful as her world-weary father.

There are admittedly too many ill-advised set-pieces that don’t even warrant a smile – somebody needs to come out and say it: fire extinguishers are never funny – and the film teeters precariously whenever it tries to be sincere. Jack’s dancefloor breakdown over his divorce is particularly hard to care about.

But time and again, Man Up is saved by Bell. She is hilarious as a slob, too lazy to attend an engagement party; looks like great fun downing shots on the date; and, most impressive of all, manages to convince us that she really does fancy a man-bag-carrying Simon Pegg.

This is about as unchallenging as cinema gets but it boasts a series of strong performances, a zinging script and the best fake orgasm scene since Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. It’s all com and virtually no rom – which might just make it the perfect romcom.