Starter for Ten

Starter for Ten

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Having modeled his life after Francis Bacon’s idea that “knowledge is power,” plucky English teen Brian (James McAvoy) abandons his beachfront home for the University of Bristol in Starter for Ten, a film whose own wisdom about the world seems principally derived from innumerable coming-of-age tales. While acclimating himself to college in 1985, Brian nabs a spot on the school’s team for University Challenge, a TV trivia show that he and his now-deceased pop used to watch together. This accomplishment leads him to potential romances with both the squad’s Barbie-doll hottie Alice (Alice Eve) and a protest-loving revolutionary named Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), who, in a bit of Some Kind of Wonderful obviousness, is clearly a perfect match for the dorky intellectual. A muggle version of Harry Potter (dark-rimmed glasses included), Brian is awed and intimidated by his new educational environs, though there’s nothing astonishing, or even unique, about the formulaic situations he finds himself in. Torn between his old roughneck, Motorhead-loving mates and new, intellectual friends, as well as conflicted over his feelings for Alice and Rebecca, Brian winds up traveling a well-worn course toward political and self-awareness, which involves a series of cheesy amorous and game show-related episodes (the latter bereft of any Quiz Show critique) that are drenched in Robert Smith’s mushy New Romantic crooning. Period detail is dutiful, and a few cursory incidents exude emotional honesty before their inevitably trite conclusions (such as a goofy, Popeye-style knockout). Starter for Ten, however, is so scrawny and superfluous that even its minor pleasures—such as Hall, whose charisma manages to shine through her character’s groan-worthy Jewish-socialist-activist exterior—are mere footnotes amid the avalanche of precious meet-and-greets, faux-complicated relationship entanglements, and ingratiating smiles and frowns from the exceptionally unexceptional McAvoy.

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DVD
Distributor
Picturehouse
Runtime
96 min
Rating
PG-13
Year
2006
Director
Tom Vaughan
Screenwriter
David Nicholls
Cast
James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Dominic Cooper, Alice Eve, Charles Dance, Lindsay Duncan, Catherine Tate