“Starter For Ten,” reviewed by Lexi Feinberg

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For all its big hair and tackiness, the ‘80s have a way of conjuring up pleasant feelings. Such is the case with “Starter For 10,” a John Hughes-esque crowd-pleaser that stars James McAvoy as Brian Jackson, a working-class teen in 1985 who charms his way into an upscale British university. He has the shy, creative vibe of Eric Stoltz in “Some Kind of Wonderful” mixed with the earnest goofiness of Andrew McCarthy – he even has the same hair.

Brian tries to live up to his opening line, “Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be clever,” by competing to join the British TV quiz show, “University Challenge.” There, he meets Alice (Alice Eve), a blonde bombshell he develops a crush on, even as she cheats off his test and steals his spot on the team. Meanwhile, on the sidelines is Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), a campus activist Brian encounters at a “Tarts & Vicars” dance. She is sassy, intelligent, and completely unaware of how cool she is – which explains why she is drawn to the loveable yet bumbling protagonist.

The setups for romantic comedies are practically all the same, so the magic must lie in the execution. In the case of “Starter For 10,” written by David Nicholls and directed by Tom Vaughan, it comes together exceptionally well, mainly because of Brian, who is cute without being intimidating, smart without always making wise decisions, and sweet in a totally unforced way.

“Starter For 10” resurrects the ‘80s with everything from its blast-from-the-past soundtrack (featuring tunes by the Cure and the Smiths) and time-specific set design, to its hilarious, Brat Pack-like script. With such a delightful turnout, it just might be enough to silence those who complain they don’t make movies like they used to.

Published courtesy Show Business Weekly

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Lexi Feinberg (Archived Contributor)

Lexi Feinberg is a freelance film critic and has contributed reviews to Big Picture Big Sound, Cinema Blend, JoBlo, Pop Syndicate and Show Business Weekly, a New York City trade paper. She graduated from Adelphi University in 2004 and has since held editorial positions at TV Guide and Forbes.com. Read Feinberg's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "Lexi Feinberg" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).