British actor Simon Pegg is 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 probably a turnoff, one can understand why the film didn't do as much business as it might have. Nevertheless, the movie has its moments of pleasure, and one 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.
The disc includes both a 2.40:1-ratio anamorphic widescreen version of the movie and a 1.33:1-ratio pan-and-scan version. The P&S version cuts off a considerable amount of information from the sides of the picture. Except that is not the problem as I see it, because you can just avoid watching the pan-and-scan. No, the problem is that WB/New Line include both screen formats on the same side of a single disc. That's some 200 minutes of film, plus the menus and extras, and it is perhaps the effect of the compression used that leaves the picture quality somewhat compromised. Colors are solid, it's true, but definition is slightly blurred, leaving something behind, and a natural film grain simply makes things look coarser.
The disc offers sound in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 is open and dynamic, with a reassuring bass thump. The surrounds mainly handle musical ambience, and they do so effectively. Even though for a romantic comedy such as this one, a big, rough-and-tumble soundtrack probably isn't necessary, the New Line audio engineers provide one anyhow. It tends to overpower the on-screen story at times, but it's worth the sonic enjoyment it brings.
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. 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. 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; a Sneak Peek at "Be Kind Rewind" at start-up and in the menu; English as the only spoken language; and English and Spanish subtitles. Also included in the package is a code for using the disc to download a standard-definition digital copy of the movie for Windows Media-compatible devices only.
The trailer 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 admirable qualities, 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 from the caustic, profane, frequently insipid, and often mind-numbingly stupid comedies the cinema has inflicted on audiences the last few years.