Starter For Ten Cover Have you ever heard of the English television quiz show called 'University Challenge'? It's an academic based trivia program; where two groups of students compete against each other, for... err... for something anyway. Something to do with Director: Tom Vaughan; and Actor: James McAvoy, Dominic Cooper, James Corden with Catherine Tate. But only in the year 2006, and for 92-minutes.

Starter For Ten : The Film - The Book

Like many other students who started University in the eighties, Essex based cleaver clogs, Brian Jackson (James McAvoy), has had a rather strained time settling in to his new surroundings.

He has had to kiss his Mother Julie (Catherine Tate), good-bye He's said 'so long' to his two old pals, Spencer and Tone (Dominic Cooper and James Corden). And to top it all off, he moves into his new rustic lodgings on campus, befriended a political activist named Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), and then win's a place on the University quiz team, who will take part on the popular television show, 'University Challenge'.

OK. I have to admit. Brian did not gain entry into this team straight away. Oh no! He did have to sit a test first, and then only got his place because one of the existing members had a fatal accident. Nonetheless, he still got in, didn't he? Plus he struck up a budding friendship with one of his team-mates as well.

No. It isn't Patrick (Benedict Cumberbatch). He's a bit of a prick. Rather, its the cute drama student, Alice Harbinson (Alice Eve). And over a very emotional dinner together, they both make plans to meet up over the holidays.

Yes. I said 'holidays'. Well, you know what students are like, huh? Quick to get away before they have to get down and dirty with their studies.

However, I am sure Brian wished that he stayed at school considering what happens to him during this time. For a start he spends Christmas with his Mum and her new boyfriend, Mr Whippy -- which has its up's and downs. Then he spends some time with his old pals, Spencer and Tone -- which only fairs a little bit better. And when he finally gets to meet up with Alice in her parent cottage -- oh boy -- Alice gets him stoned, he sees her parents naked, and they put Brian back onto a train to University, as quickly a they can.

So guess who Brian spends the remainder of his holidays with? Go on. Guess. Correct. His new a political activist pal, Rebecca - who he likes, who he falls for, and who he ultimately messes up with because his brain is turning into mush.

Well, I suppose that is why what next transpires is a right turn up for the books I can tell you. As an old friend meets some new friends - team-mates violently bucks the trends - mistakes are made on the show - and questions are answered for those who know. 

Now I really-really-really wanted to like 'Starter for 10' I did. It felt that it was a film which had a lot going for it, which I thought would be just fab to watch. James McAvoy is in this flick -- which is always a good thing, right? I am also a fan of the 'academic' movie too -- especially considering that I come from this particular background myself. Plus in addition to this, the central theme of this film is about quiz shows - -and I just love this type of program.

However, once I started to sit down and watch this British based drama, I then found out that it was a rom-com in disguise.


Listen, please do not get me wrong dear reader. I don't mind some rom-coms -- at least three of them. It's just that I was expecting to see one thing, and then I started seeing something completely different. Like drinking an olive flavored milkshake for example. Moreover, what I saw was something of a mix-bag all in all, and a good / bad film.

And what do I normally do when I watch a good / bad film? Correct-o-mon-do - advantage / disadvantage time:

James and Rebecca in Starter For Ten

ADVANTAGE: (1) All the cast are really good in this movie - especially James, Rebecca, and Benedict - whom stamp their own mark in a very archetypical manner. (2) There are certain scenes in this film which are laugh out loud funny, making some of the lesser scenes feel 'throw-away' in comparison. (3) I want to give Rebecca a baby [well it's an advantage to me]. (4) The quiz show segment of this film is really well presented within the core of the story, as it made the 'mistake element' all the more surprising. (5) The one or two scenes where Brian is talking about his dead father, and how he influenced his path towards academia, were real stand out scenes for me, because it grounded the overall pretext within a believable reality. 

DISADVANTAGE: (1) In places the whole Archie / Betty / Veronica love triangle did not really evolve in an understandable manner, and kind of felt 'shoe horned' within the theme of this movie. (2) Considering that this was a University based adventure, there was not that much 'University time' in this flick. (3) The 'holiday segment' happened too quickly within the structure of the film, beginning too soon for my own liking. (4) I want to give Catherine Tate a baby [well it's a disadvantage to me].

Question Time for Starter For Ten

OK, so that makes it 5 - 4 - yeah, sounds about right. Let's have some trivia now, shall we? (1) Catherine Tate graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama. (2) As a child, James McAvoy wanted to become either a missionary or a priest when he grew up. (3) The Motorhead song 'Ace of Spades', as played in the opening segments of this film, was in fact the same song that Brit-sit-com, 'The Young Ones', played, during their episode involving them going on 'University Challenge'. (4) Rebecca Hall is the daughter of famed stage director, Peter Hall. (5) Although she plays his mother in this film, Catherine is only eleven years older than James. (6) Original 'University Challenge' presenter, Bamber Gascoigne, was also a satirical novelist and broadcaster. (7) Along with Sir Derek Jacobi, Mark Gatiss is one of only two actors who played both 'Doctor Who' and his greatest enemy, 'the Master'. (8) James is a big science fiction fan, including the original 'Star Trek' and 'Battlestar Galactica' programs. (9) This film is based on a book written by the screenwriter of this film, David Nicholls. And (9) Dominic Cooper shared a house with his co-star, James Corden.

The Cast of Starter For Ten

OK, be honest, was that too much trivia for you? Also, was it too many bullet-points as well? If so, just remember that it could be a lot worse, as conveyed in the message that 'Starter for 10' was trying to make.

Well, lets face it, sometimes knowledge is a fickle thing, and it can only help you go so far in life. And that is what I like the most about this movie you know - this message. Because it elevated the conceptual story-line onto a whole new level, making a good / bad film into a earthy / grounded film, and a must see for all quiz enthusiasts looking for love. If possible?

Now how's that for a last minute question, huh?