A film review by Craig J. Koban
RUN, FAT BOY, RUN
2008, PG-13, 100 mins.
2008, PG-13, 100 mins.
Simon Pegg: Dennis / Thandie Newton: Libby / Hank Azaria: Whit / Dylan Moran: Gordon / Matthew Fenton: Jake / Haris Patel: Mr. Ghoshdashidar
Directed by David Schwimmer / Written by Michael Ian Black and Pegg
|RUN, FAT BOY, RUN
is a comedy stranded between three awkward hemispheres: it tries to be a
romantic, love conquers all story, a cunning and sardonic British farce,
and a sentimental underdog melodrama.
All of these elements are here, but only a few are handled with any
This is not surprising considering the people in front of and
behind the camera:
We have Simon Pegg, a jolly and ferociously funny on-screen
charlatan, Chicago-born Michael Ian Black, who co-wrote the screenplay
with Pegg, and, yes, Ross from TV’s FRIENDS, David Schwimmer, helming
the film in his directorial debut.
On paper, a
Queens-born actor turned director seems like the least likely person to
helm a British comedy of manners…and for the most part...it shows.
Schwimmer is a real life close friend of Pegg’s, so maybe the two
felt that pairing together would be a good idea.
Unfortunately, Schwimmer’s filmmaking virginity shows as RUN, FAT
BOY, RUN is awash with a sitcom level of heavy handed sentimentality
sandwiched in-between awkwardly forced sight gags and pratfalls.
There are individual comic moments that are stiff and lifeless
alongside some that are strained.
Schwimmer also seems to have no idea what tone he is attempting
of would-be heart-warming emotion and drama are integrated haphazardly
with scenes of gross out gags, weird physical comedy, and scathing
anything, RUN, FAT BOY, RUN lacks cohesion.
Yet, perhaps the
source of the film’s greatest asset is also its source of greatest
Pegg’s screenplay seems like such an illogical progression from his
uproarious and sharply played satires (SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT
which effectively and gleefully mocked the conventions of the zombie and
cop/buddy action flick respectively).
In RUN, FAT BOY, RUN his co-authored script plays it annoyingly
safe and feels like a straightforward, dime-a-dozen, romantic comedy with
every readily foreseeable cliché and plot development.
The script is a cookie-cutter exercise in formulaic storytelling,
right down to the loser with a heart of gold, the woman he desperately
wants to re-connect with, and the dastardly man in this woman’s life
that he will eventually come head-to-head with.
Oh, and we get an irrepressibly cut child with an adorably English
accent and missing front teeth that is tacked on for exasperatingly
participation as actor and writer in this film label him as a sell-out?
There are some deliciously droll moments here and there, but all of
the acerbic banter that has typified his past comedies seems utterly
suffocated by RUN, FAT BOY, RUN’s bland, inconsequential, and
Watching this film after seeing Pegg's last two is odd, seeing as
this comedy could have worked so much better if it chastised the
conventions of all of those dumb and lifeless Hollywood romantic comedies.
Instead, RUN, FAT BOY, RUN essentially wants to be just another one
of those pedestrian Hollywood romantic comedies.
Fans of Pegg’s work, as a result, will be set up for
imagine what could have resulted with a radical re-write, normal Pegg
co-star Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright along for the ride.
Alas, contrivances riddle this film, not comic inspiration and wit,
as it shies away from being scathing and cynical and instead is a bare
bones, feel-good comedy.
The film opens
five years in the past as we see the wedding day of Dennis (Pegg) and
Libby (Thandie Newton, doing what she can with a weakly and lazily written
is having severe pre-nuptial jitters, panics, and abandons his bride-to-be
- whom is with child - at the altar.
We then flash forward to the present and we learn that Libby and
Dennis are no longer together, but she did bare his child in Jake (Matthew
Fenton) and – gasp! – she has a new boyfriend in the affluent and
handsome Whit (Hank Azaria, whose usual comic gifts are all but subverted
Dennis grows ambivalent about Whit and realizes that Libby is the only
woman he wants to be with.
The problem is that she resents being dumped on her wedding day
(what woman wouldn’t?) and Whit is now around, who seems perfect in
every way in her eyes.
reveals to Dennis that he is to run in a charity marathon in London and,
in a desperate attempt to reconnect with his wife and to regain his
much-needed self-respect, Dennis also agrees to participate.
His main problem is that he is horribly out of shape and in no way
looks capable of running a long-distance marathon.
Yet, he is coached on and assisted by his best friend, Gordon (Dylan
Moran, one of the film’s comic high points) and his own landlord, Mr.
Ghoshdashidar (Harris Patel) who helps to motivate Dennis by spanking his
bottom with a spatula while running.
This film is
bathed in nauseatingly cobbled together conventions, which only helps to
accentuate the blandness and triviality of the story.
Most of the secondary characters never feel plausible as real life
wife character feels like she’s on autopilot that makes every single
decision at the service of the screenplay.
Perhaps the biggest casualty of the film is Hank Azaria’s
boyfriend, whom initially comes across as a nice, affable, well
meaning and intentioned suitor to Libby.
At first, this is an interesting angle seeing as it provides a real
test for Dennis (trying to retake his old girlfriend from another
reputable and decent man would have given the story more conflict), but as
the script chugs from one methodical point to another, it frustratingly
and abruptly alters Whit into a iron clad SOB, which rings kind of false.
This character's turn from nice guy to lecherous heel never
feels legitimate or plausible.
This character's turn from nice guy to lecherous heel never feels legitimate or plausible.
great pains to make Whit a loser and jerk whenever its convenient,
which allows Libby to change allegiances.
Two moments in particular feel artificial: The first when Whit
tries to sabotage the marathon for Dennis and a later scene where he
berates his cute kid – in front of Libby – with hurtful vulgarities.
Cue shocked reaction from Libby.
Cue her quickly rejecting Dennis.
Cue Libby and that adorable kid to the finish line to assist Dennis
with love and moral support.
And then there is the ROCKY-esque underdog aspect of Dennis’
final run towards the finish line that anyone with a sound mind could see
from a mile away.
RUN, FAT BOY, RUN may be glaringly prosaic, but the film does score a few high comic moments, in part because of Pegg, who manages to cut through the film’s predictability with some refreshingly offbeat and incendiary lines (his response to a reporter asking how he is feeling while running the last leg of the marathon is perfectly played). He performs some of the film’s physical comedy with a daft touch (although one moment with a department store mannequin seems like a rejected outtake from MR. BEAN). One cheeky scene occurs when he goes out for his first run in what appears to be a sinfully undersized pair of running shorts, which eventually gives him a rash in what he calls the "scrotal region."
Yet, the film is almost stolen from Pegg by Dylan Moran’s insidiously hilarious dead panned delivery and one-liners. Some passages are unmitigated zingers, like when Dennis asks him if there is any special technique to running, to which he dryly responds. "Well...yeah...you put one leg in front of the other, over and over again really, really fast!" There is another nail biting moment where Gordon tries to sell Dennis tickets to an outdated show: Dennis asks him, "Who would buy tickets for an event which happened yesterday," to which he replies, "Uh...time travelers." And then there is a Farrelly Brothers moment that involves a gigantic, apple-sized blister on Dennis' foot as Gordon attempts to puncture it with a needle. The end result is more disgusting than funny, but Gordon's shocked response to it is a knee-slapper: He utters the film's single funniest line: "That's the second-most disgusting fluid I have ever had in my eye!"
of Pegg’s and Moran’s comic inspiration can’t help overcome RUN, FAT
BOY, RUN’s imbecilic, bland, and flaccid story, which careens from one
regurgitated and predestined plot point to the next.
The film has a good heart and is amiable, but too many films like
this have preceded it, not to mention that Pegg is far, far too intelligent
and gifted as a comic mastermind to trudge through this regrettably
hackneyed film. Ultimately,
while leaving the theatre after seeing RUN, FAT BOY, RUN I felt
that Pegg made the kind of film that he would have lambasted and ridiculed
to giddy effect under different circumstances.
Unfortunately, instead of him scorning this type of material –
which would have been so much more satisfying – he gets hijacked