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Winning performances score maximum points; Cinema.



STARS: James McAvoy, Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Tate, Charles Dance, Lindsay Duncan. DIRECTOR: Tom Vaughan.

FIRST broadcast in autumn 1962, the general knowledge quiz University Challenge gained a cult following during its heyday, elevating host Bamber Gascoigne to almost iconic status during his 25-year tenure with the show.

The beloved battle of young minds inspired David Nicholls's comic novel Starter for Ten, which gained bestseller status with the endorsement of Richard & Judy.

The film version, adapted by Nicholls, remains faithful the hugely enjoyable page-turner, and accomplishes that rare feat of surpassing the source material.

Meandering subplots have been tightened, dialogue polished, and the dramatic focus shifted to the geeky hero's pursuit of a romantic ideal.

James McAvoy is scarily believable as a socially awkward 18-year-old, who is ill-equipped to woo the woman of his dreams.

He brings vulnerability, innocence and immense likeability to his role, representing the dreamer in all of us, who risks humiliation to follow his heart.

It's 1985. Shy, sensitive Essex lad Brian (McAvoy) has nurtured a love of trivia since he was a child.

And when he joins Bristol University he signs up for auditions to find the campus's new University Challenge team.

Brian is instantly smitten with his blonde nymphette teammate Alice (Eve), who plans to use the television exposure to launch herself as an actress.

Starter for Ten scores maximum points with its hilarious one-liners and winning performances, including a great cameo for Mark Gatiss as quizmaster Gascoigne.

First-time feature director Tom Vaughan (he cut his teeth behind the camera on the TV series Cold Feet) doesn't try anything too flashy, concentrating on Brian's accident-prone journey of self-discovery.

Top of the class.

VERDICT: *****


BATTLE OF YOUNG MINDS... James McAvoy in Starter for Ten (12A) (above and right), as shy and sensitive Bristol University student Brian, who signs up for University Challenge team and goes on a voyage of discovery.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 10, 2006
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