Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Painfully Obvious, Run Fatboy Run Is Average, But Gets Some Laughs.

The Good: Funny at times, Decent-enough DVD bonus features, Acting isn't bad
The Bad: Utterly predictable plot and character arcs
The Basics: Funny, but so predictable to not hold up for a second viewing, Run Fatboy Run is not worth the buy, even if it is all right.

Of late it seems much easier to convince my partner to go with me to comedies or watch comedy films when I pick them up from the local library, so it was little surprise to me when I brought her home a choice, she picked Run Fatboy Run out of the pile, as that was the lone comedy I had brought home. It was actually not a surprise at all that she picked the movie; David Schwimmer directed Run Fatboy Run and my partner is a huge fan of Friends (reviewed here!). I had seen several previews for the movie on other discs I had gotten out, so it seemed like it would be a fairly fun movie. It was stiflingly average and obvious in virtually every way.

Run Fatboy Run is the directoral debut of David Schwimmer and continued to introduce Simon Pegg to a broader audience in the United States. One suspects that his role in Star Trek (reviewed here!) has pretty well nailed him into the public's mind there, but Run Fatboy Run made him even more recognizable on the art theater circuits here. If nothing else, the movie is fun, even if it is not superlative in any aspect.

On his wedding day, Dennis Doyle gets cold feet and literally jumps out the window and runs for his life. Five years after he abandoned his pregnant fiance Libby at the altar, Dennis is a security officer at a women's clothing store and slouching through his life. He botches taking his son to see the stage production of The Lord Of The Rings and gets himself arrested, which continues to lower him in the eyes of Libby, their son Jake and Libby's new beau, Whit. Whit makes it clear to Dennis that he intends to move forward with Libby and become Jake's stepfather.

Feeling threatened by Whit's presence in Libby and his son's lives, Dennis vows to change. Whit, as it turns out, runs marathons for charities and he is running in the London Marathon in three weeks. Dennis vows to Libby that he shall run in and complete the same marathon, which leads his best friend Gordon to bet everything he has in Dennis's favor. With the respect of his son, the heart of the woman he loves, forgiveness on all of his back rent and everything Gordon owns on the line, Dennis begins training for the London Marathon!

The fundamental problem with Run Fatboy Run is that it is so terribly predictable as to almost completely gut any merit to the film. Every opportunity for the most predictable humorous reversal is taken, such that anyone with even the most basic knowledge of how comedy works will remain unimpressed and unsurprised. So, for example, after a spinning class, Whit warns Dennis to be careful going down the stairs and Dennis scoffs at him before falling down the stairs. By the time the morning of the race comes and Dennis enthusiastically sets his alarmclock and declares he has to be gone from the house by seven, only the dimmest viewer will not figure out that he is going to oversleep. The movie is painfully predictable, which makes one wonder how it took two people to write this movie.

In fact, when one reads the setup: man vows to run race against his love interest's suitor to try to win her back, earn his son's respect and keep his house, the film pretty much writes itself . . . if one is not creative. Unfortunately, screenwriters Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg are not at all creative with Run Fatboy Run. As a result, there is the most predictable sense of conflict, Dennis runs into an obstacle which causes him to give up, has an incident which renews his resolve and he goes on. Even worse than the predictable arc with Dennis are the peripheral characters.

Whit seems like an up-front guy, but as he slips, he falls farther than anyone would guess. That is, unless one has read anything back to a Greek comedy, which always has the adversaries to the hero turning out to be flawed in deeper ways than the protagonist! Libby is little more than an accessory to Whit and in the film her role quickly becomes to look pensive at key moments and process her emotions in ways that the viewer gets even when she is not speaking.

Libby is ably played by Thandie Newton, who has a good sense of nuance and is all that saves Libby from being one of the worst roles for women in years on screen. Libby's arc is predictable, but Newton does a decent job of going through all of the appropriate motions to sell the character's growing sense of doubt in Whit. Similarly, it is no fault of Hank Azaria - who plays Whit - that Whit is so badly written. Azaria does an excellent job of planting the seeds of Whit's sublimated anger and discomfort early in the movie, but the arc is entirely predictable.

I've not seen Simon Pegg in much on screen so far, but it does seem like his contract requires him to appear in all of his films with hair that is sweat-plastered or waterlogged (Star Trek submerged him in a cooling duct for this, for example). In Run Fatboy Run Pegg has several scenes, running and simply anxious, where Dennis is covered in sweat and his hair is plastered to his skull. I'm mentioning this rather than going into depth with an analysis of Pegg's acting because even with the limited exposure I've had to Pegg's work, I've seen this performance from him before. Dennis is a slacker character who tries to make good and Pegg plays that role a lot, just like Michael Cera plays goodnatured young geeks.

On DVD, Run Fatboy Run comes with a few deleted scenes, which do nothing to improve the movie in any significant way. There is a commentary track and it is funny; Pegg, Newton, Schwimmer and Simon Pegg's mother, Gill, participate and they have a great sense of humor about the work. There are trailers as well and an outtake reel which is amusing. These are pretty much the standard DVD bonus features for a comedy and they add little extra value to the very average movie.

And that is the death knell of Run Fatboy Run; it starts fine and is funny, but it is not terribly original or worth watching more than once.

For other works with Thandie Newton, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Pursuit Of Happyness
The Chronicles Of Riddick


For other film reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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