Run, Fatboy, Run (2007) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some rude and sexual humor, nudity, language and smoking
Running time: 100 min
Cast: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran, Harish Patel, Matthew Fenton, India de Beaufort
Director: David Schwimmer
Screenplay: Michael Ian Black, Simon Pegg
Review published October 13, 2008
Dennis Doyle (Pegg, MI:3) hasn't always been a runner, but he did run one day - his wedding day - a case of cold feet in marrying his beloved (and pregnant) Libby (Newton, Norbit) that eventually led to the dissolution of their relationship. Five years later, Dennis still carries a torch for his ex, who he gets to see when visiting their son Jake (Fenton), and he still believes in his heart he can win her over again somehow. His hopes are all but dashed when Libby introduces her new good friend, Whit (Azaria, The Simpsons Movie), who has become increasingly closer to her, which, given how he is a perfect gentleman, she doesn't mind one bit. Somehow he must find a way to redeem himself in Libby's eyes again, and he finds an avenue by competing in the marathon along with Whit. However, with only a few weeks to go, and without sponsorship, it's going to take a lot of wheeling, dealing, and training to get his flabby body in the sort of condition to go the distance, not to mention showing up Whit for the jerk that Dennis thinks he is.
Fans of Simon Pegg's other recent notable work, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, will most likely be a bit disappointed by Run Fatboy Run for failing to hash up enough laughs to justify its 100 minute run length. Pegg isn't especially bad in the film, it's the story itself that is a letdown, pushing forth a sitcom premise and stretching it out to feature film length without enough story angles or surprises to maintain anything more than occasional interest. There have been innumerable examples of a husband and father forced to "come of age" in order to win back the heart of his family again. Almost without fail, this is facilitated by the "outing" of the new would-be beau as some sort of jackass unworthy of gaining the love of the man's family, usually evidenced without precedent during the final moments. As a rule of thumb for these sorts of films, if the kid really, really loves his poppa, there will be a reconciliation in the end.
I suppose that it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that Run Fatboy Run has a sitcom approach to comedy. After all, it is directed by a sitcom vet, "Friends' alum David Schwimmer (his first), and both screenwriters, Pegg and Black (Wedding Daze, "Stella"), got their start after years on various television projects. I would say that all that's missing is the commercials, but there is quite a bit of product placement to be found, particularly for Nike, which supplies not only the running shoes you see, but the name of the marathon is the "Nike River Run." The one quality I liked best in their film is the notion that one can't really get to love the girl until he learns to love himself. By going through with the race, Dennis isn't trying to impress Libby; he's trying to justify that he is good enough, at least in his own mind, to have a woman like her.
Despite some parts that work, the movie as a whole doesn't have the juice to sustain comedic momentum. I think that Pegg's fans will be most disappointed that Run Fatboy Run isn't a self-referential spoof. It's actually a rather straightforward contemporary comedy, even tossing in little bits of not-terribly-heavy family drama and romance to give Dennis's character a sense of depth and inner turmoil. The comedy falls flat, as it reaches into oft-used bags for inspiration -- gratuitous male ass shots, innuendo, and mild gross humor (the popping of a giant blister full of pus is one of the more unsavory of the bunch) are the fuel that drives the comedic engine, which, in the era of smarter and raunchier material from Judd Apatow and his cronies, means that Run Fatboy Run is already outdated by a couple of years.
The best one can say about the film is that it isn't unpleasant, and can make for a decent enough time-waster for those looking for some low overhead entertainment, but it's too inconsequential in its genre to get any form of recommendation. In the marathon of comedies, it's an also-ran.
©2008 Vince Leo