Dir. Tom Vaughan. UK. 2006. 96mins.

James McAvoy confirms hisposition as Britain's brightest newcomer in StarterFor Ten, a solid, rather endearing comedy, basedaround Britain'slong-running quiz show University Challenge. A period piece setin 1985-6, with all the music and haircuts to match, it is produced by TomHanks, via Sam Mendes, and, despite being a very British-set production, hasthe slick trans-Atlantic feel of a Working Title number.

Undoubtedly set for brisk businesslater this year in the UK- where the show is an institution - this college-set pieceshould push all the right buttons with affluent moviegoers in their 30s and40s, drawn by, among other elements, a knowing soundtrack that features TheSmiths, The Cure and Bananarama among others(although the story itself features less of the quiz programmethan some audiences might expect).

Starter For Ten may do well theatrically elsewhere, but this willdepend strongly on marketing and word-of-mouth. It lacks the Andie MacDowell/Julia Robertscasting angle of a Four Weddings (theex-lover scene is practically repeated here) or a Notting Hill, yet has the same kind of charm.

Ancillary, especially TV,should be good across the board. Starter For Ten may be a standard boy-meets-girls, boy-chooses-wrong-girl,discovers-right-girl romantic comedy at heart, but McAvoy'seasy charm in the lead role should not be under-estimated, and Nicholls'screenplay is brisk and funny.

McAvoy plays Brian Jackson, a working class resident of southernEnglish working-class resort Southend, who is thefirst in his family to go to university - in particular, Bristol University.A fan of University Challenge,fronted by quizmaster Bamber Gascoigne, sincechildhood (when he used to watch with his late father), Brian soon gets theopportunity to audition for the team at his seat of learning.

There he meets beautifulmiddle-class Joanna Lumley-lookalike Alice (Eve), whoquickly becomes the love, or like, of his life. A hilarious New Year's Eveencounter with her naked parents (Dance and Duncan) frustrates his romanticintentions, however, and Brian finds himself slipping at study, losing contactwith his childhood friends, and having a typical college crisis about who he is and where he is going. Only his new friend Rebecca(Hall) seems to understand him. One of Brian's destinations, of course, is thetelevised quiz, where his life abruptly comes into focus.

McAvoy is ably backed by strong supporting turns, inparticular from his University Challengeteam-mates, and the cast and plot make for a winning combination.

The location shots feelauthentic (especially Brian's home and college digs) and there's an authentic feelof the whole proceedings thanks to strong production credits.

Production companies/backers
Neal StreetProductions
Scamp Film And Theatre
HBO Films

International sales
HBO Enterprises

UK distribution

Executive producers
Nathalie Marciano
Michelle Chydzik
Sam Mendes
Steven Shareshian

Tom Hanks
Gary Goetzman
Pippa Harris

David Nicholls, from his novel

Ashley Rowe

Jon Harris
Heather Persons

Production design
Sarah Greenwood

Blake Neely

Main cast
James McAvoy
Alice Eve
Rebecca Hall
Lindsay Duncan
Charles Dance