Run, Fatboy, Run

Movie Information

The Story: A slightly overweight slacker tries to win back the woman he abandoned five years prior by entering a race. The Lowdown: Consistently pleasant, amusing comedy that works by delivering what you expect.
Score:

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: David Schwimmer
Starring: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran, Harish Patel, Matthew Fenton
Rated: PG-13

I have a bad feeling about this genial, shambling, rather charming little movie. Why? There were maybe 40 people at the first evening show I attended on opening night, and while they seemed to genuinely like the movie—there was even some applause at the end—that’s not exactly an impressive turnout. Something tells me that Run, Fatboy, Run is destined to run right on out of town pretty fast. Too bad. It’s not a great movie, maybe not even an especially good one, and it’s certainly neither original nor packed with surprises. It is, however, entertaining and thoroughly likable.

Simon Pegg—he of Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) fame—stars as Dennis Doyle, a largely unmotivated commitment-phobic fellow who panics on his wedding day and leaves his pregnant fiancée, Libby (Thandie Newton), at the altar. Five years later, he’s still going nowhere, spending his working hours as a security guard at a lingerie shop where his principle activity seems to be chasing down a drag-queen shoplifter (Gabriel Fleary). He does manage to spend some time with his son, Jake (Matthew Fenton), but has a bad habit of showing up late and unprepared. All this changes when Dennis learns that Libby is involved with a rich, successful American, Whit (Hank Azaria), making him realize just exactly what he lost when he ditched her.

Somewhat preposterously, Dennis decides that the way to win Libby back is by competing in a 26-mile marathon race—primarily because Whit is in the race. That Dennis is out of shape (to put it mildly) and barely motivated enough to get out of bed for practice runs poses a problem that is only slightly helped when his best friend, Gordon (Dylan Moran, Shaun of the Dead), appoints himself his trainer. (Gordon happens to have a financial stake in the matter). The addition of Dennis’ irritable, but ultimately very caring landlord, Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel), armed with a spatula to goad him along is of slightly more help. Libby flat out tells Dennis that none of this will make a difference, but the race has come to be a point of honor—to prove to everyone that he can finish something—and Dennis perseveres.

Along the way, of course, lessons are learned and true character emerges in ever more unsurprising ways, but this is a case where being surprised matters less than being satisfied. In other words, Run, Fatboy, Run does exactly what you want it to do in terms of plot.

Pegg, Newton, Moran and Patel keep it afloat, while Azaria does what he can with a role where we’re just waiting for his character to prove himself to be a skunk from scene one. By the time the gloves come off and Whit talks about St. Paul’s Cathedral being his favorite spot in London, asking Dennis if he knows why, only to have Dennis guess, “Is that where you first realized how wonderful you are?” we’re prepared for utter villainy from Whit. And we are not disappointed.

In his feature-directing debut, David Schwimmer doesn’t do anything especially remarkable, but then good comedy doesn’t always benefit from flashy filmmaking. His assembling of the film is a little clunky. The movie starts off in retro mode with Bing Crosby crooning the Gershwins’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and then pegs Dennis as a rock fan with Bowie’s “Queen Bitch.” (Note to filmmakers: This is the third use of this song in the last few years. Bowie did record other songs.) After that, the soundtrack smoothes out into uninspired choices and an often-intrusive score by Alex Wurman that tries too hard to be funny, and the overall feeling is that Schwimmer lost interest in what the movie sounded like.

All in all, it’s a sweet, enjoyable film that’s worth a couple hours of your time. There are pleasant bits throughout—mostly predicated on stock eccentric Brit characters—and a few nice running gags. You could certainly do worse. Trust me, you have done worse. Rated PG-13 for some rude and sexual humor, nudity, language and smoking.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

5 thoughts on “Run, Fatboy, Run

  1. TigerShark

    If a movie is “entertaining and thoroughly likeable” – how can it not be good?

  2. Ken Hanke

    Are you actually being serious? Who said it wasn’t good?

    What I said was “It’s not a great movie, maybe not even an especially good one, and it’s certainly neither original nor packed with surprises. It is, however, entertaining and thoroughly likable.”

    What part of that isn’t clear to you?

  3. TigerShark

    >>>What I said was “It’s not a great movie, maybe not even an especially good one, and it’s certainly neither original nor packed with surprises. It is, however, entertaining and thoroughly likable.”

    >>>>What part of that isn’t clear to you?

    What part of “If a movie is “entertaining and thoroughly likeable” – how can it not be good?” isn’t clear to you???

    Explain to me why you think the movie “may not be especially good.” What is your esoteric definition of “good,” hm?

  4. TigerShark

    >>>What part of that isn’t clear to you?

    Well, gee. All of it?

    What I said was “It’s not a great movie, maybe not even an especially good one, and it’s certainly neither original nor packed with surprises. It is, however, entertaining and thoroughly likable.”

    Right, so what does “it’s not especially good” actually mean? If a move is entertaining and thorougly likeable, what else does it have to be before you think it’s better than “not even especially good”?

    In other words, and at the risk of repeating myself, what did this movie have to add so that you would consider it good, instead of just entertaining and likeable, but “not especially good.”

    See the dichotomy there?

  5. Ken Hanke

    What exactly is your problem here? There are a lot of likeable things in this world that aren’t very good. I find it hard to believe that you don’t recognize that. There’s nothing and no one in this world that you like while recognizing their shortcomings?

    But if you insist on belaboring the issue, this movie would have to be more interestingly made (it’s never more than adequate). It would have to have a sharper screenplay that afforded some hardcore laughs instead of just pleasant chuckles. It would have to add some degree of surprise in its plotting rather than be completely predictable. It would need something distinctive about it to give it some significant identity of its own. It would have to be a movie that was actually worthy of its star’s talents instead of coasting by on them. It falls short on all these things, so by my esoteric definition, it’s not particularly good.

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