By American standards, Simon Pegg might seem far too scrawny for the title role of Run Fatboy Run, but his presence takes up space on the big screen in ways that make up for it.
The British star, actor and writer of riotous hits such as the RomZomCom (a new genre referring to romantic zombie comedies) flick, Shaun Of The Dead, and over-the-top action/comedy Hot Fuzz returns to American screens as the protagonist in Friends’ star David Schwimmer’s first directorial work. Taking the role of British everyman Dennis Doyle, the film opens on what should be a joyous day for him and his pregnant bride-to-be Libby, played by the stunning Thandie Newton. Instead, we find Dennis in the middle of a panic attack. Only minutes before his wedding ceremony, out he goes through the window and down the street.
Cut to five years later and Dennis is still running, albeit this time in hot pursuit of a cross-dressing shoplifter, trying to recover undergarments for the women’s clothing store where he works as a security guard. In all this time, it becomes painfully obvious that he’s done little with his life since his break from commitment, with the only good thing that’s come out of his efforts being his bumbling attempts to bond with his son Jake. Yet Dennis can’t seem to catch a break when he finds out Libby’s dating a charming, well-off American fellow named Whit, cast as Hank Azaria.
It’s about this time that he belatedly realizes he’s still in love with Libby, even if she does cast cold glances his way for everything but what’s best for their son. One thing leads to another, and wouldn’t you know it, you’ve got the unfit, underachieving loser training for a marathon. While this might seem like a far-fetched concept to many, for someone who’s trying to win back his ex, the plot begins to turn towards a predictable cliché.
This isn’t to say that the movie isn’t entertaining, however, as we’ve seen in Pegg’s previous films that have addressed all sorts of overused plot twists and devices. With the help of his best friend Gordon, played by a stoned-looking Dylan Moran, and odd but funny Indian landlord Mr. Goshdashtidar (quite a mouthful no doubt), Dennis gradually and painfully makes his way towards his goal.
While the story isn’t exactly novel, and Schwimmer’s inexperience as a director shows at times with some of the cinematography and pacing, it’s the actors and sharp wit of British comedy that really make the movie work. Between seeing Dennis molesting a scantily-clad mannequin while on duty, trying to perform a body-slam into a cobbled road and foolhardily taking on a whole glassful of raw eggs during the classic “training montage” (not to mention all the quirky lines that come with it), it’s hard to come away from this movie without some sense of enjoyment. The secondary characters are equally memorable and well cast, with Moran putting out his fair share of peculiar moments and Newton being quite charming on her own, to name a few.
Despite its flaws in the romantic and story departments, and the potential typecasting of Pegg as someone stuck in one place in life, Run Fatboy Run readily makes for an enjoyable flick in spite of its mainstream allure. Sure, you might not be inspired to go out and buy yourself something in spandex right afterwards, but at least you’ll know that you couldn’t look any sillier than poor Dennis.