Run, Fat Boy, Run comes from a background of comedy gold, three times over: the off-kilter quirkiness of writer Michael Ian Black, the sweet goofiness of director David Schwimmer, and the British everyman humor of cowriter and star Simon Pegg. Ideally, the film would have joined the three comedy styles seamlessly, creating a lovable, hysterical movie that could do no wrong.
Unfortunately, Run, Fat Boy, Run feels like three different movies as disparate as its influences: one set of gross-out jokes that would make the Farrelly Brothers proud, one sweet but schlocky romantic comedy, and one laugh-out-loud underdog story. It's as if the trio couldn't commit to just one sort of film, bouncing from saccharine father-son scenes to disgusting blister-popping to Pegg's trademark loser-y antics. The result is a film that isn't bad, just disappointingly ordinary.
Pegg stars as Dennis, a man who chickens out on his wedding day and runs away from his pregnant bride, Libby (Thandie Newton). Five years later, he wants to win her back — but Libby has started dating Whit (Hank Azaria), a slick American stockbroker who seems to be good at everything, including running marathons. Dennis decides that the way back to Libby is beating Whit at his own game and decides he, too, will run a race. Never mind that just running down the block leaves him winded; he's going to finish 26.2 miles and get the girl, to boot. Things follow a fairly expected path from there — though there are some laughs along the way — so read more.
It probably goes without saying that any film with that sort of premise will feature training montages, long stretches of failure, and finally a breakthrough that suggests success isn't entirely out of reach. That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable to watch; it's hard not to chuckle at Dennis training in his wholly inappropriate spandex briefs. It helps that his "coaches" are equally inept: One of the highlights of the movie is Dennis' relationship with his deadbeat best friend, Gordon (Dylan Moran), who needs Dennis to finish the race so his cardsharp buddies don't shake him down for everything he owns.
Less successful was Dennis' relationship with his other coach, his landlord Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel); the stereotypical racial humor adds little to the movie, and the speeches about being a better man try to give the movie heart but too often feel trite. The same could be said for Dennis' relationship with his son, Jake (Matthew Fenton), which goes to such predictable places that people in my screening were calling out Jake's lines before Fenton had a chance to say them. Azaria is hilarious playing Whit as a soulless jerk, but that's all his character is; there's not a lot of dimension there.
As an actor, Pegg does incredible things with his face; every disappointed sigh or pathetic "please take me back" look makes you want to wrap the guy up in a bear hug and assure him that he really is a good guy. In fact, the movie's clear goal is to make you root for Dennis, and it's set up to leave viewers little choice. Schwimmer could have done something to make the most predictable parts feel less tired, but that's where his inexperience as a director shows through; in a few scenes, the actors seem to react to punchlines before the words had actually been spoken. While I won't tell you what happens on race day, frankly, you can probably figure it out.
Just as it's impossible not to root for Dennis, it's impossible not to want Run, Fat Boy, Run to succeed. I just wish the movie had a lot less blister-popping, a little less cheesiness, and a bit more originality.
To see the trailer and more clips from Run, Fat Boy, Run check out movies.ivillage.com.
Photos courtesy of Picturehouse