British actor Simon Pegg is probably not yet a household name in America, yet he scored two big hits in the comedies "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and "Hot Fuzz" (2007). Apparently, it wasn't enough, though, for him to score again in the 2007 romantic comedy "Run Fatboy Run" (also known by the more grammatical "Run, Fatboy, Run"). Given that the majority of the general public still hasn't caught on to Pegg's brand of humor and that the rather downbeat tenor of the title was no doubt a turnoff, one can understand why the film didn't do as much business as it might have. Nevertheless, the movie has its pleasurable qualities, among which are its excellent Blu-ray picture and sound, and a person should not just write it off.
Pegg plays Dennis Doyle, a slacker who five years earlier got cold feet and left his pregnant fiancée at the altar. He's regretted it ever since, but the ex-fiancée, Libby Odell (Thandie Newton), has not. She's got a new boyfriend, Whit (Hank Azaria), handsome, polished, successful, and smug. While Dennis works as a security guard at a women's apparel shop in London (and sleeps in whenever he can), Whit is a successful financial broker who works out regularly and runs marathons. Is there any question why Libby favors him.
The thing is, Dennis still loves Libby, and they have a son, Jake (Matthew Fenton), whom he loves just as much. But what can he do? He's overweight, out of condition, and run down. He eats too much, drinks too much, and smokes too much. He's a klutz, he's clumsy, and he's forgetful, always locking himself out of his apartment. Well, what he decides he can do is run a marathon. Huh? He figures the twenty-six-mile Nike River Run is the answer, his last chance to show Libby he can change. Besides, Whit is running in the marathon, and Dennis wants to show him up.
So that's the premise of the movie. Dennis has three weeks to prepare for the race, a daunting feat, and the bulk of the plot revolves around his misadventures training for the event and the event itself.
There are any number of good laughs in the film, and I found myself smiling quite a bit, which bodes well for a comedy. After sitting grim-faced through dozens of so-called comedies in the past few years, "Run Fatboy Run" was an unaccustomed treat. Still, the laughs are a mixed bag. Some of them are subtle, the kind you find in a lot of British sitcoms, and some of them are painfully slapstick (a blister-popping gag is unnecessarily juvenile), perhaps the result of the film's being a first-time big-screen directorial effort from American actor-director David Schwimmer ("Friends"). I'm wondering if the film wouldn't have had a more consistent tone if a Brit had directed it rather than a Yank. Who knows.
Anyway, there is a genuinely touching scene between Dennis and his son in a park; a memorably cute scene in Libby's bakery shop; a couple of excellent supporting performances by Dylan Moran as Dennis's layabout best friend and Harish Patel as Dennis's landlord; a sexy turn by India de Beaufort as the landlord's daughter; a clever scene where Dennis "hits the wall"; and a sentimental "Rocky"-like ending that seems almost plausible and leaves one cheering in any case.
Although "Run Fat Boy Run" offers up nothing particularly new or exciting, pretty much following formula, it does deliver affecting performances from all of its principals, particularly Simon Pegg, who seems to be able to tackle a variety of roles with equal aplomb. The film left me agreeably satisfied and uplifted, with a PG-13 rated screenplay that seldom resorted to much off-color humor. With the exception of a few salty words and a glimpse of Dylan Moran's backside, there is little that's offensive about the picture, something other filmmakers might heed.
Overall, the picture quality on this VC-1 encoded, BD50 edition high-definition movie is excellent. The 2.40:1 ratio image shows up vividly, a little dark and glossy at times, especially noticeable in facial features, but with deep, vibrant colors. The video shows only occasional lapses into softness, generally maintaining a healthy degree of sharp delineation, and a light print grain grounds the film in reality. When it's good, which is most of the time, the picture quality is very, very good.
I've noticed several studios recently announcing one thing on their back-cover art, when, in fact, it was another thing on the disc. Now WB/New Line do it on this release. The back cover for "Run Fatboy Run" says it contains a Dolby Digital 7.1 soundtrack, which would have been unique. But the disc actually sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, just as other New Line Blu-ray products have done. (The cover art also says the disc contains a theatrical trailer, singular, when there are really two trailers, but that's another story.)
The DTS Master Audio is almost too good for the movie, producing a wide frequency response and a strong dynamic impact worthy of an action thriller. There are times when it's maybe too much of a good thing and tends to overwhelm the production. However, I quibble. The sound is great, with plenty of oomph. There isn't as much rear-channel activity as I might have liked, but it's a small point, and when the surrounds (up to four of them in a 7.1 system) do their work, they're quite effective.
Just as the movie itself offers nothing innovative yet comes across charmingly, so does the bundle of extras offer nothing we haven't seen or heard before, yet they are welcome enough, many of them in high def. First up, there's an audio commentary by Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Gil Pegg (Simon's mum), and director David Schwimmer that makes amiable listening. After that are fourteen brief deleted scenes, about seven minutes' worth, with an optional commentary. Next is a series of outtakes that also last about seven minutes, followed by an on-set practical joke, "Thandie's Goof."
The extras conclude with sixteen scene selections; two widescreen theatrical trailers; English as the only spoken language; Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired. Also included in the package is a standard-definition digital copy of the movie for Windows Media-compatible devices only. However, as my colleague Eddie Feng pointed out, it appears to be a regular DVD edition.
One of the trailers for "Run Fatboy Run" says "Relationships are like marathons. They require dedication, discipline, and determination, of which Dennis has none." Very true. But if he did have all these worthy characteristics, we wouldn't have had a movie. The fact is, "Run Fatboy Run" is cuter and sweeter than I expected, a mildly pleasant surprise. It's a welcome relief, too, from the caustic, profane, frequently insipid, and often mind-numbingly stupid comedies the cinema has inflicted on audiences the last few years. With its fine Blu-ray picture and sound, "Run Fatboy Run" is worth a look (and listen).