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Originally published Friday, March 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Run, Fat Boy, Run" is just another lap around the cliché track

Tiny running shorts on a dude are the comedy gift that keeps on giving. Likewise, there's nothing edgy or new about "Run, Fat Boy, Run. " But titular fat boy...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review 2 stars

"Run, Fat Boy, Run," with Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria. Directed by David Schwimmer, from a screenplay by Pegg and Michael Ian Black. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some rude and sexual humor, nudity, language and smoking. Several theaters.

Tiny running shorts on a dude are the comedy gift that keeps on giving.

Likewise, there's nothing edgy or new about "Run, Fat Boy, Run." But titular fat boy Simon Pegg — who notes that he's not fat, just unfit — is funny enough to make the mild British romantic comedy mildly enjoyable.

Fans of Pegg's excellent cult comedies, "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," with his co-writer and director Edgar Wright, should know that this doesn't much resemble those. In fact, it's the semicompetent directing debut of David Schwimmer, that irritating guy from "Friends" — sorry, to be more specific, the whiny irritating guy ... well, look him up if that doesn't narrow it down enough.

Five years after panicking and running out on his wedding to pregnant Libby (Thandie Newton), Dennis (Pegg) is a dumpy loser who smokes, lags on his rent and works security at a women's clothing store where he huffs and puffs chasing down a transvestite shoplifter.

Still in Libby's life because of their little boy — and carrying a torch for her — Dennis meets her new squeeze: Whit (Hank Azaria, in a thankless straight-man role), a handsome American hedge-fund manager who moisturizes, goes to spinning class, has lots of money and runs marathons. In other words, a complete wiener.

Already consumed with remorse and now faced with losing Libby for good, Dennis has to prove something to her, to himself and to that wiener. It's something about responsibility and finishing things. So he decides to run a big London marathon that Whit has entered. Cue the painful training montage and wacky cast of characters helping Dennis: his spatula-wielding Indian landlord (Harish Patel) and his drunken, gambling mook of a best friend (Dylan Moran). Soon, everything is riding on Dennis finishing the race, as the pal wagers a huge sum on him, and the landlord's daughter promises to evict him if he fails.

If "Fat Boy's" formulaic, feel-good plot were a marathon course, you could run it blind. Pegg wrote the script with Michael Ian Black of "The State" and "Reno 911," and its cliché-load in light of their previous work leads to the inescapable conclusion that they were writing drunk. Also, just for once, I wish they'd let the female love-interest-object be funny in movies like this.

But the good humor becomes hard to fight by the time pathetic underdog Dennis is in the climactic race, and Pegg's rubber-faced suffering is so innately funny that he pulls off even the most groan-inducingly broad, sub-Benny Hill slapstick. Scratching his chafed crotch (from those little shorts) on a mannequin's hand. Sporting a National Erectile Dysfunction Awareness T-shirt. Falling down stairs.

Or maybe it's less that Pegg is hilarious than it is fun to see the British dragged down to our lowbrow, mediocre level.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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