New Line // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 29th, 2008
Love. Commitment. Responsibility. There's nothing he can't run away from.
I've never understood the appeal of David Schwimmer. I caught glimpses of Friends, and I've seen him in one movie, but I still didn't get why people thought he was funny enough to put in front of the camera. Because of this I was even more incredulous when I heard he was stepping behind the camera. I was, however, suckered in when I heard that Simon Pegg would be starring, as well as co-writing the film with Michael Ian Black. The resulting film, Run, Fatboy, Run, raises Schwimmer's esteem in my eyes, but does little for my opinion of Pegg or Black.
Five years ago, Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz) pulled the ultimate boneheaded move: he left his pregnant girlfriend Libby (Thandie Newton, Crash) at the altar. Since then, he's realized his mistake and he wants her back. Of course, she's moved on to another man, the rich, sensitive, seemingly-perfect Whit (Hank Azaria, The Simpsons). Whit is going to run in the upcoming Nike River Run for charity, and Dennis (the overweight smoker) hopes that by competing he can convince his ex that he's changed. With the help of his friend Gordon (Dylan Moran, Shaun of the Dead) and his landlord (Harish Patel), Dennis sets out to finish the marathon.
I'm getting tired of losers and slackers as the "heroes" of comedies, especially romantic ones. It's almost amusing to watch a guy redeem himself, but starting a character off with the handicap of having left his pregnant girlfriend at the altar makes it very hard to care about his predicament. Also the "If only I could do X, I could win her back trope" is getting tired, too. Are men and women really gullible enough to think that people can change like that? I sure hope not. To the film's credit, it has Simon Pegg and a small desire to overturn some of these stereotypes. Pegg is such a brilliant comedian that he makes even this tired character brim with life. I didn't care much about Dennis Doyle, but I enjoyed watching Simon Pegg. Also, the script is smart enough to recognize that the audience is tired of the "if only" storyline. Eventually, even the characters recognize the stupidity of thinking that Dennis finishing the marathon will actually save his relationship. This kind of knowing moment keep the film from being overly sentimental. It's not a laugh-a-minute riot, but Run, Fatboy, Run keeps the amusement level high and the saccharine content low.
Although Pegg is the "star" of Run, Fatboy, Run, the film's secret weapon in Dylan Moran. I'm not exactly sure what makes him so funny. Part of it is his accent and delivery, and part of it is the writing. But more than that, he seems like the only character who didn't step straight out of another film like this. Yes, other romantic comedies have the straight-talking buddy role, but Moran's Gordon seems to have come from a different universe than these other characters. He's done more work in Britain, but I hope he gets cast in other films that get wide American release.
While I'm spreading praise, Hank Azaria deserves some for his portrayal of Whit. Most actors in the thankless role as the new boyfriend would play up the smarmy sides of the character, leading to another in the long line of forgettable characters. Instead, Azaria plays it cool for the film's first half, seeming like a truly likable guy. His dark side only emerges as Dennis intrudes further into Libby's life. It's a believable, non-stereotypical version of a character we've seen countless times before.
I wish there was more to praise in Run Fatboy Run. It's not a bad comedy, but considering the talent on display here, it should amount to more.
However you feel about Run Fatboy Run, New Line has given us an effective presentation of the film on DVD. The video is as crisp and clean as you'd expect from a recent film. Schwimmer seems to have chosen a particularly warm palette for his film, so the colors look a little off at times, but that appears to be intentional rather than an encoding error. The audio keeps the dialogue in the clear, although the surrounds don't have much work to do.
The commentary with Pegg, Schwimmer, and Newton is where most fans will turn first; it keeps the jokes coming with some production info thrown in for good effect. If you wanted to see more of the landlord's daughter, turn to the deleted scenes, which include some funny bits. We also get some on-set footage, but the extras lack the kind of depth that the talent here deserves.
I'll also give this release credit for not touting itself as a "Two-Disc Special Edition" and then only including a digital copy of the film on the second disc. Instead, fans are provided with a code on an insert that explains how to download a digital copy.
Simon Pegg is better than Run Fatboy Run. Dennis Doyle is almost the same character we've seen in Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. However, in both those films the writing and directing brought a little something extra to the table. Not so with this feature. I guess this film is a fine way to establish Pegg as a viable actor to American audiences, but it feels like treading water on his part.
Run Fatboy Run is a formulaic romantic comedy that offers amusement rather than outright laughs, which leaves the feeling that these actors could be doing a lot more with their time. The disc does a fine job of presenting the film, but the extras are a little weak.
Run Fatboy Run is guilty of not going the distance.
Review content copyright © 2008 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Commentary by Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Gill Pegg, and David Schwimmer