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Do not let the Hollywood marketing machine fool you. Yes Simon Pegg stars in Run Fatboy Run and yes he has cowriter credit on it, however, this is not a Pegg/Wright/Park production like Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, and “Spaced.” No this is a story from the warped mind of Michael Ian Black, he of “The State” fame. It appears from the “story by” credit to Black that maybe Pegg came in late with some tweaks and rewrites after he was cast. There is a bit of him on display—some British humor and the use of cyclical stunts to add some funny as an incident harkens back to earlier in the film—at the end, though, this is a different kind of comedy. While I won’t go as far as some reviews I’ve read that being a fan of Fuzz and Shaun means you will hate this, I can see where they are coming from. Not quite complete physical humor nor subtle rhetoric; this falls in a niche of most generic comedies coming down the pipeline. It has some fantastic parts, though, and I am a fan of Black’s work, so I will admit to having a smile for most of the duration. As long as you don’t expect genius, (or a cameo from Nick Frost), you should still have a fun time despite your comedic predilections.

The synopsis is that a common Joe, with low self-esteem, let the love of his life go due to a fit of nerves and self-loathing. Five years later and his life is at an all-time low, getting his son arrested, watching a successful American make the moves with his ex, having money problems, and just going through the motions of a life he has resigned himself to living. With all odds against him, Dennis, (Pegg), signs up for a Nike marathon to show that he’s not a quitter. Don’t let that tried and true gimmick to win back his love fool you; the race is actually a somewhat small part of the whole and serves as a springboard for more situations in which he can get into trouble with during training. I’ll admit that the broad comedy got old and was way too obvious, making me yearn for the humor I know Pegg is used to delivering, but I kept reminding myself that “Friend” Ross Gellar himself had the reins, so I took it for what it was. Sometimes a little crassness can be fun when used sparingly.

I would say that the film had heart, but those moments are too sentimental to really praise. The music has a tendency to swell and the script starts to pull at the heart-strings before fading back as a new joke emerges. If handled a bit more deftly this could have been a much better film because the makings are definitely there. Story threads like that of the son and his first crush during the time his mother is dating a new man are glossed over too easily, used for dramatic emphasis in the life of our lead rather than a way to flesh out the characters around him. With so many supporting roles, I wish we’d have been given more of a complete story instead of using them as props to have Pegg bounce off of. That said, the other actors are really good with the one-way story arcs they are given.

I have always been a Hank Azaria fan. The guy is so likeable that he can play the jerk to perfection. I felt bad for him at times being reduced to acting some of the situations scripted, (the lazily written locker room scene comes to mind), but he is perfect for the role, laying some sharp jabs at the right time and always being genuinely happy to see someone willing to go through a marathon, an obsession of his own, while inwardly laughing at the absurdity of Pegg finishing it. Thandie Newton does well as the woman caught between these two men. With not much to really do, she is still effective in showing the emotional back and forth happening. We also get Harish Patel as Pegg’s Indian landlord and friend, but the role comes off too much as a caricature to really praise, other then a good word for the man playing it. The saving grace to everything, though, is Dylan Moran. Maybe it is because I have begun to watch his fantastic British series “Black Books,” but he warrants a laugh each time he is onscreen. From his relationship with Newton (cousin) and Pegg (best friend), to his gambling lifestyle, to his self-hiring as fitness coach, Moran is absolutely priceless. His dialogue and actions at his cousin’s birthday party are worth seeing the movie by itself.

Run Fatboy Run ends up being more for the Farrelly Brothers crowd than the British humor ones. That may actually hurt it being that so many Americans hate English accents and find them hard to understand. Hopefully it will find its audience, though, because despite its watered-down execution, any way to get UK faces like Pegg and Moran some time in the Hollywood limelight is a good thing. I just wish they’d market it for what it is, a comedy by David Schwimmer, not a new masterpiece from the people that brought us a couple of modern-day classics. It’s funny and it’s entertaining for an evening out, but it’s not necessarily something I’d seek out to see again…well except the race at the end, some real good stuff does go on there.

Run Fatboy Run 6/10

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photography:
courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival

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