March 30, 2008

REVIEW: Run, Fatboy, Run (C+)

Background: Simon Pegg isn't really a household name in the U.S. yet, but a rapidly growing number of movie fans know the British actor as the public face of the partnership he shares with best friend Nick Frost, with whom he co-wrote and directed Shaun of the Dead and last year's (fantastic) Hot Fuzz. Taking a break from buddy farces, Pegg somehow ended up as the leading man in David Schwimmer's (yep, same one) directorial debut, Run, Fatboy, Run. Written by comedian Michael Ian Black and originally set in L.A., Fatboy was moved to London and Pegg was added as a co-writer. Filling out the cast are Thandie Newton (Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness) and Hank Azaria ("The Simpsons," Dodgeball). If you're curious about when the next Nike River Run is, you'll have to wait for a sequel since the race doesn't actually exist. I don't think I've ever seen so many Nike swooshes in a movie.

Synopsis: Dennis Doyle (Pegg) is a paunchy neurotic who left his pregnant fiancée, Libby (Newton), at the altar five years ago. Dennis is forgetful and frequently flustered, but he's an upstanding guy and he loves seeing his now 5 year-old son, Jake, when Libby allows. We don't know much about Dennis and Libby's relationship since the wedding day, but Dennis is shocked at the sudden appearance of Libby's strapping new boyfriend, Whit (Azaria), who makes bank as a hedger and runs marathons for charities. Determined to prove his worth as a dad and as a man, Dennis plans to run in the upcoming charity marathon, the Nike River Run on the Thames - for erectile dysfunction, but against Whit. If you haven't figured out the conventional plot from this point on, you obviously haven't seen many movies, but I'll amuse you because I respect you for reading this: Dennis is coached by his best friend and his Indian landlord while Whit becomes more villainous by the hour. After an emotional setback, Dennis finds himself again just in time to set up the climactic race and predictable ending. Oh, and one important detail - somewhere in all of that a massive blister bursts open on somebody's face.

I Loved:
+ Simon Pegg in the moments when he actually had an opportunity to act.

I Liked:
+ Thandie Newton, as a character that was just a touch softer than her grating roles in Crash and The Pursuit of Happyness. The chemistry between her and Pegg worked well, too.
+ The soundtrack - especially the song playing when Libby opens the gift from Dennis.

I Disliked:
- The deliberately frequent butt shots. Is that an inside joke or a desperate reach for cheap laughs?
- The reliance on physical comedy, especially for Simon Pegg's character. Anybody (Mr. Bean?) can fall down a flight of stairs or trip over jumpropes, but it doesn't fit Pegg well enough to work. Kind of like Steve Carrell in Evan Almighty - these aren't slapstick actors, they're clever comics. Let them shine with their natural talents.
- Some awkward editing, for which I blame Schwimmer. The bun shop scene, for example, was stuttering and overdone.

I Hated:
- That no creative effort was put into mixing up the predictable clichés
. I thought Simon Pegg's writing credit would have added more wit to this, but it doesn't appear he did anything improve on Black's original work, and the movie suffers because of it.
- The exploding blister, which may have been appropriate in Shaun of the Dead, but was just abrupt and really gross here.

Writing - 6
Acting - 9
Production - 7
Emotional Impact - 9
Music - 5
Significance - 3

Total: 39/50= 78% = C+

Last Word: Were it not for some light comedy and my admiration of Simon Pegg, I would have really hammered Run, Fatboy, Run as the predictable and ultimately bland movie that it is. It still loses points for formulaic writing and poor production, but it's not an out-and-out bad movie primarily because the silly emotions that you think you feel for the characters are actually genuine. The credit for this goes to the actors, and not just the three established stars. Newcomer Matthew Fenton subtly adds a surprising amount of charm and cheer as young Jake, and even Dylan Moran and Harish Patel add life to their poorly written characters. David Schwimmer did nothing to impress me here, but my low expectations overall didn't give me much reason to be disappointed. I liked seeing Thandie Newton be able to smile a bit more again, and Simon Pegg can do wrong in these harmless roles. I'm a little curious about how he'll be as Scotty in next year's Star Trek, but somewhere I read that he and Nick Frost are working a screenplay where Frost stars and Pegg supports as comic book convention attendees. Anyway, he's the only reason to make an effort to see Run, Fatboy, Run, which is fine for a theater trip but probably best as a DVD rental.


  1. Ah, good old plot number 3 (there's only 4). Too bad Pegg didn't stick with his collaborations with Frost. They're pretty good.

  2. Hehe, I'd like to hear what the other 3 plots are, Rick. I'm sure I'd recognize them in many recent movies.

    I don't think Frost/Pegg is totally done yet, but Pegg certainly has leading man potential and he's already lined up on a few Hollywood big-budget flicks. Call Frost/Pegg the Damon/Affleck of comedy, but neither is as bad as Affleck.

  3. This was on my list for Sunday, but I only ended up doing one movie.

    I like Pegg a lot, but I'm not sure he's enough of an element alone to carry a whole movie.

    Apparently, they decided to movie it to England after Schwimmer was already attached when an English production company caughed up some of the financing. At that point, Schwimmer thought of Pegg because they'd worked together on The Big Nothing.

    Kind of a convoluted path this one took to the screen. The thing is, it SOUNDS like a movie that should be American and should take place in LA. It just has that feeling to it.

  4. Thanks for the background, Craig. I haven't seen The Big Nothing but I would otherwise never pair Pegg and Schwimmer together. To me, David Schwimmer exists in a universe where only "Friends" and bad romantic comedies exist. Wait a minute, Fatboy kind of is a romantic comedy. Worlds are colliding! Well this needs to be broken up ASAP because it's not helping either party.

    Still, it's probably best to enjoy Pegg before he's completely corrupted by Hollywood.

  5. I'm sad that this has gotten the poor reviews that it has. When I first heard about it, I thought it sounded promising. A comedy written by Michael Ian Black starring Simon Pegg? Good stuff should have come of that. Oh well. I know the things that they do in the future will still be funny. I don't think this is the beginning of the end for them.

  6. Yeah I was pretty hyped about it too, Justin. I'm really only familiar with Michael Ian Black from seeing him on VH1 every now and then, but I know he has loyal fans. Can't say I'm too impressed with his writing here, but if I can instead blame Schwimmer for Fatboy's failure, I will.

  7. Simon Pegg and David Schwimmer were also in Band of Bothers together... Just throwing that out there.

  8. Oh, yeah? I didn't realize you were a fan of "Band of Brothers." :-P

    Really though, I didn't know that and I'm really surprised that they've worked together so frequently. Guess it wasn't such an odd collaboration after all.

  9. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are two of my favorite comedies of the decade so maybe I've allowed a soft spot to grow because I thought this was pretty good. It didn't blow me away or anything, but compared to every other comedy (other than Sarah Marshall) of the year, I'll take this one. I wouldn't credit Schwimmer, but I won't argue with anything that keeps him out of the camera's view.

  10. Ha, yeah I suppose Schwimmer's excluding himself from the cast makes up for what I thought was just a bit of a dragging story. Like that bun shop scene.

    By year's I'll probably have forgotten this movie. You're right that the comedies really haven't been up to par this year so far- we'll see how Pineapple Express, Step Brothers and Tropic Thunder fare as the summer ends.


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