- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Picturehouse
Reviewed by David Medsker
he contrived but cute “Run Fat Boy Run” ambles along innocently enough, and then out of nowhere, the movie leans on gross-out humor and pratfalls that would shame Mr. Bean (and one scene will have Austin Powers calling his lawyer). The movie’s screenwriters, Michael Ian Black and star Simon Pegg, are smarter than this, so the question begs: whose idea was it to put those scenes in the movie? Yes, they get big laughs, but they’re so incongruous with the rest of the movie that they smack of desperation, that the filmmakers didn’t believe that their movie was good enough or, because it’s a primarily British cast, accessible enough. They thought wrong.
Pegg stars as Dennis, a commitment-phobe in all aspects of life. Five years removed from standing up his pregnant wife-to-be Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar, Dennis works as a security guard, lives in a run-down flat, is always late for visits with his son Jake (Matthew Fenton) and is way behind on his rent. If his life wasn’t bad enough, he has learned that Libby is now dating an American hedge fund manager named Whit (Hank Azaria). Once Dennis learns that Whit is running in a marathon, Dennis decides to run as well, despite being woefully out of shape. What begins as a desperate attempt to win Libby back becomes an opportunity to win back his self-respect, but everyone from the gambling buddies of his best friend Gordon (Dylan Moran) to Dennis’ landlord Maya (India de Beaufort) is placing bets that Dennis falls on his face.
After the embarrassing bits involving jock itch and Whit standing naked before Dennis for an ungodly long time (he even applies baby powder, ugh), the movie begins to go down the path that the story would reasonably go in real life, only to abandon reality for the fairyest of fairy tale endings. The problem is that for it to work, Whit must completely change gears, so before you know it, ta dah! He’s a jackass. It doesn’t feel at all genuine.
Give credit to Pegg, then, for plowing through every indignity the script (his own script!) throws at him with a straight face. Newton rarely has to do anything in movies but be beautiful, and while even that simple task tends to be a problem for her, she fares well here. Dylan Moran plays the Nick Frost part as flighty best friend Gordon, and even manages to save some, er, face in the movie’s grossest scene. Azaria, on the other hand, was shafted; his Whit begins the movie with depth and understanding, and ends the movie as a cartoon villain.
It didn’t have to be this way. “Run Fat Boy Run” was a niche movie from day one, so why didn’t they just play to its audience instead of shoehorning in some dick jokes for more “mainstream” appeal? It won’t make a difference at the box office. In fact, it will likely hurt the movie far more than help it.