With its stellar cast and the up-beat, tongue-in-cheek, sunny look of its poster, The Love Punch is the kind of comedy that promises big laughs for an adult crowd, yet rarely manages to rise above being anything other than mildly pleasant.
Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson are ex-husband and wife, Richard and Kate, and despite their marital differences they need the help of each other. The company that Richard worked for has been bought by a French businessman, and the takeover has stripped the British employees of everything. Not only do they no longer have a job but they’ve also lost their life savings, including their investments and pensions. “That’s the beauty of it,” the businessman cheerfully declares when confronted by Brosnan after admitting he runs a lot of companies to the ground. “It’s completely legal.”
Together, Brosnan and Thompson, with some help from their best friends, Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie, decide to seek revenge and hit the businessman where it hurts. After discovering that the Frenchman is about to marry a young woman in the South of France and will be giving his bride-to-be a $10 million diamond as a gift – bought, no doubt, on the profits he ‘legally’ stole from his recent takeover and others like it – the intrepid, middle-aged Londoners come up with a scheme to get their money back. “That rock is our pension,” states Thompson. “We should nick it.” So they pack their bags and head to the French Riviera with the notion of stealing the diamond. “Do you think we’re doing the right thing?” asks Brosnan, “You know, diamond stealing, kidnapping?” “Without a shadow of a doubt,” replies Thompson.
So far, so good, but what looks and sounds like the setup to a fun if unlikely caper turns out to lack the very thing that’s mentioned in the title – a punch, and it has everything to do with writer/director Joel Hopkins’ script.
What presumably read well in print somehow never quite translates to the screen. “You get me, Kate,” Brosnan’s character tells his ex. “That’s because I’m a trained child psychologist,” Thompson replies. There’s plenty of gentle wit and word play between the main characters, and both good neighbors Spall and Imrie give great support just as expected, but they can’t help a screenplay that simply does little more than amuse. Sometimes what’s written and reads well doesn’t always sound as sharp when spoken, even when delivered by such a heavyweight cast as this.
Occasionally, there are unexpected moments of truth. When Thompson has a bedside chat with the young French bride, who happens to have cold feet before the ceremony, Thompson explains to the wealthy young woman the difference between being given everything and having to work for it. “It’s easy to say I love you when you’re rolling around in expensive sheets,” she says, “But it’s so much harder when they need washing.”
But when the French businessman suddenly turns into some kind of Cote d’Azur James Bond villain by ordering Brosnan and Thompson’s death, the film hits a false note. His murderous action may spur an audience’s desire to see the middle-agers succeed with their law-breaking robbery but somehow it just feels wrong.
There’s no denying the fun of seeing Brosnan and Thompson together, plus the exotic, sun-drenched locales can’t help but look attractive, but it’s not enough. Wait for a rainy, Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else on TV, then you might consider renting The Love Punch. You won’t remember much about it once it’s over but it’ll help you forget the rain, at least for ninety-five minutes.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 95 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)