Thursday, November 10, 2011

Starter for 10 (2006) ***

“Starter for 10” is weighed down by the worst title since “The Forty-Year-Old Virgin.” Outside of that, it’s a charming, if formulaic, romantic comedy.

James McAvoy plays Brian, a lad from a working class, Essex family who gets an opportunity to attend a prestigious London university. Essex is sort of the New Jersey of England, so he’s a bit lost in the big city at first, but he quickly adapts. He joins the school’s University Challenge team, which is a quiz competition where the best teams compete on TV. Brian also finds himself vacillating between two gorgeous girls. The first is a lanky hippy named Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and the other is a posh, blond bombshell with a thing for dangerous men named Alice (Alice Eve). While these beauties distract Brian from his academic goals, his thuggish Essex buddy Spencer (Dominic Cooper) shows up at college to explain that he may have to go to jail for theft and fraud.

If you can’t guess what happens next, then I’m not gonna tell you, but the main weakness of “Starter for 10” is that every plot twist is completely predictable for anyone who has seen a couple of movies before. For such a well-acted movie, it couldn’t be more formulaic. There are the meet-cute scenes. There are a couple of classic, running headlong through the university campus scenes. There’s even some older-people-naked humor, a staple of British comedy.

Other than having a plot that is exactly the same as every other romantic comedy/coming-of-age movie, “Starter for 10” is quite enjoyable. The jokes are good, the acting is excellent all around, and the lead actresses are very easy on the eyes. It’s a British movie, but the accents are mostly understandable, and really the only thing standing between this movie and an American audience is the title, which I think refers to something the quiz show announcer might say.

3 stars

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