Run, Fatboy, Run is a predictable, hokey, and borderline unrealistic British rom-com, but includes enough cheeky one-liners to be enjoyable.
At the core it’s a lame “loser fights for girl’s affection” formula, but the movie is rescued by funny performances in the way Knocked Up was last summer.
Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) in his new-found celebrity status is not above looking foolish for laughs, donning comically-short jogging trunks and a tank-top announcing his support for erectile dysfunction. But Pegg still delivers the witty retorts that made him a British cross-over star, trading laughs with plenty of light playfulness and sheepish likability.
It seems the original script by offbeat comedian Michael Ian Black gained plenty of signature material from Pegg, because it clearly has his funny fingerprints all over it. Fans of Pegg’s will enjoy the movie, but may be disappointed it isn’t on par with his break-out films.
Dennis is a slightly overweight mall security guard living in a shabby basement apartment. One day while picking up his son, he realizes he made a big mistake leaving his pregnant fiance at the altar five years ago. To win her back, Dennis commits to running in a marathon to prove he’s changed to Libby and to himself.
But the story is more about the relationship between Dennis and his five year old son Jake rather than the rekindling of any romance with his old flame Libby. There is zero chemistry between the couple, partially because Pegg is going for gags and Thandie Newton is even blander than usual. The fights are subdued and conventional, while the necessary spark is non-existent.
The best sections come from Dennis playing off his best friend Gordon (Dylan Moran), a compulsive gambler and one of his two “training coaches.” The two have worked together before and it shows, making a comfortable transition for the British funnymen into their few scenes together.
However, underutilized here is Hank Azaria, who plays Libby’s new boyfriend Whit, a well-off fitness runner who has taken over the family in Dennis’s absence. Azaria’s history of comedic talents, including extensive voice work on “The Simpsons,” is completely unused, pigeon-holing him to the villain role with zero jokes.
Which means any time Newton or Azaria are on screen that’s reserved for plot development. Anytime Pegg and his sidekicks shared a scene, its the comic relief portion of the show. This disjointed structure creates an up and down flow where the high points are chuckle-worthy awkward humor and the lows are the usual pitfalls of the genre.
In his directorial debut outside of a few episodes of “Friends,” the actor formerly known as Ross (David Schwimmer) shows some promise as a comedy director. Though he doesn’t create anything visually impressive, he cut together a pretty tight movie and let the actors just be funny on screen. It’s only “meh” because of a string of familiar plot devices along its own run.