Following Simon Pegg’s super-cool performance in the live-wire Brit-cop parody that was last year’s Hot Fuzz, the pressure was on to follow up in his next project with the same writing prowess that made that film so freakin’ good. The resulting film is Run Fatboy Run, a humorous, compact little flick which possesses a slightly different overall style than that of his previous works.
The narrative is based around Dennis’s (Simon Pegg) fear and insufficiency in the areas of commitment and responsibility and basically the fact that he runs away from any challenge he is ever faced with in his life. Run Fatboy Run is kicked off by his panicked dash from the altar, where he was set to marry his pregnant bride Libby (Thandie Newton), after suffering from a severe case of cold feet. Several years down the track, Dennis finds himself a sad and lonely man. Working as a security guard at a woman’s clothing store and living in a cramped basement unit of an apartment block, he is clearly regretting the decision he made to escape from a marriage to the women he genuinely loved. Upon learning of the new man in his ex-fiancé’s life, Whit (played perfectly by Hank Azaria), Dennis vows to turn his life around and win back his girl by proving his worth in the most obvious of ways: by running a marathon. The challenge is laid down for Whit and Dennis to duke it out on the cold, hard streets of London.
Pegg’s Dennis is the likable loser, stumbling along through life post-Libby, trying to be a good father to his young son Jake, but tripping over himself in the process. The direct opposite is Azaria’s Whit, who along with his swanky job, buff physique and nice-guy persona is also a great step-dad to Jake. The film benefits immensely from the humorous banter between the two characters, with Dennis’s contempt for Whit being an evident source of the tension between them. Dennis dishes out the quick one-liners as an immature attempt to undermine Whit, and he comes up with some beauties. The small supporting cast adds a little something to the film also, with the standout being Dylan Moran as Dennis’s spaced out best friend, Gordon. Look out for the cameo role from The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant.
Don’t go into this one expecting the same caliber of comedy which characterized the likes of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead as this film doesn’t quite possess the same level of humor which made those so successful. Without doubt there are touches of the Pegg that had you rolling in the aisles during Hot Fuzz last year, but as a complete package, Run Fatboy Run isn’t quite in the same stead. The strong influence that Ricky Gervais has had on British comedy in the past 5 or so years is very easy to see in this film, with much of the humor coming from very David Brent-style lines and delivery. This isn’t to say that this film is simply an attempt to recycle the dry style of Gervais. I merely point to the influence as a point of reference.
One thing I noticed about the film that wasn’t apparent in the trailer is its tendency to align more with the romantic comedy genre than with the straight-out comedy. There isn’t the constant assault of one-liners and slapstick moments that would tend to over-balance the film into the cheap comedy genre; it maintains a balance and flow which suits the rather light plot. The shift from a more overpowering and crude style of ‘male’ humor, I believe, opens the film up to a broader audience, but at the risk of it slipping a little into the ‘date movie’ category. Director David Schwimmer also keeps the distinctly British feel to the film which is, of course, one of its main attractions in the first place.
All-in-all, Run Fatboy Run was a nice little film that had me laughing, but more than anything it left me longing for another Simon Pegg-Edgar Wright collaboration.
The Upside: Simon Pegg. Enough said.
The Downside: The fact that Hot Fuzz tended to raise our expectations for this film.
On the Side: This is David Schwimmer’s (yes, Ross from Friends) motion picture directing debut.