March 16, 2008

Run Fatboy Run review (aka Fatboy Needs New Nikes)
Run, Fat Boy, Run

Matt: Three stars

Length: 100 min

Love. Commitment. Responsibility. There’s nothing he can’t run away from.

Précis: Semi-enjoyable romantic comedy suffers from a rehashed plot and finishes well back in the pack.

Review by Matt:

Millions of fans become excited when a new film is released featuring English actor and comedian Simon Pegg. It’s understandable. He’s been at the centre of two big comic winners recently: Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Unfortunately, his latest cinema appearance is a reminder that the man doesn’t maketh the movie. Run Fatboy Run is a disappointingly average comedy. So average in fact that at every turn you will be thinking, “Hmm, haven’t I seen this before in ‘Movie X’ or ‘Television Show Y’?” In this way it’s the very antithesis of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which were hilarious self referential parodies of their respective genres.

Simon Pegg is Dennis, an average slacker who shamefully pulled a runner on his pregnant bride Libby (Thandie Newton) on their wedding day. Five years later his running days are over – he’s a fat slacker subsisting on the joy he gets from visiting his now five-year-old son Jake (Matthew Fenton) and having the occasional beer with his grumpy, gambling chum (the excellent scene-stealing Dylan Moran). When arrogant American stallion Whit (Hank Azaria) muscles in on Libby, Dennis is suddenly motivated to prove himself to Libby and re-win her love by running the London Marathon. The only problem – besides his breathtaking lack of fitness – is that the Marathon is in 3 weeks. Dennis needs to train, secure a sponsor and to fend off the smarmy jibes of Whit.

This all unfolds in a rather hackneyed way. You can probably already see the bad-father-needs-to-win-back-love comparisons to a hundred other films (Liar Liar jumped to mind pretty quickly for me). There’s an evil romantic intruder, a little kid who loves his real father, a challenging hurdle to overcome in the end etc. Despite this, Simon Pegg’s comic talents in particular manage to stave off the rot fairly well. There are some mild laughs and, if you like this type of thing, there are a standard array of comical characters to meet along the way who of course return to watch the climactic race finale with us.

There are a few explanations for Run Fatboy Run’s general blandness. Perhaps it’s the fact that it is the directorial debut of ‘Mr Sitcom’ David Schwimmer. His hands-off directing is certainly from a different universe than the explosive visual style of Edgar Wright, who was behind the camera for Pegg’s home-turf pictures. Schwimmer’s camera also needs its comic-timing recalibrated. A number of the film’s visual jokes fall inexplicably flat. I’ve rarely seen a kick to the testicles go without laugh like I have here.

I also indict American Michael Ian Black, the creator of the unenjoyable television comedy Stella, and the original scriptwriter for this film. Simon Pegg reworked the script – including by re-setting it in London – so that Run Fatboy Run could get a release. The result is a strange hybrid. It often feels funny and right when Pegg and the irascible Irishman Dylan Moran are centre screen. Then we get a decent chunk of good comedy. But the film has an irremediable core of formulaic American cinema. I kept wishing that Run Fatboy Run would turn into a genius parody of romantic comedies or of the triumphant sporting underdog film. But it just wants to run the straight and flat route. And it even adds a final insult by slapping us in the face with pair after pair of product-placed Nikes – so much so that “Fatboy Needs New Nikes” wouldn’t have looked so strange as an alternate title. Overall, a big part of the problem will be the high expectations many will have for Run Fatboy Run, but it ultimately feels a bit like eating a big tasteless cookie that has only a few chocolate chips.



  1. Sounds awful, after reading this. I thought the tagline sounded humorous. But it’s too bad they couldn’t match (or even aspire to) the edginess in “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.”

    I thought “Shaun” was brilliant in leading up to the final showdown in the pub, how silly and oblivious to the dangers our heroes were! And “Hot Fuzz” really had my going with its over-the-top action (to the point of being ridiculously fun).

    Are there any other movies out there that also have this thrilling balance of humor and deadly danger? Just wondering.

  2. Hey Rey, Edgar Wright also made a very low budget spoof of Westerns back in 1994 called ‘Fistful of Fingers’. You could try that out. Other than that I guess you could find some ‘humour and deadly danger’ in ‘Grindhouse’ though it’s more of a general ‘laugh at the kitsch badness’ type of humour rather than ‘laugh at the cleverness’ (Edgar Wright also directed one of the fake trailers for ‘Grindhouse’). Same with Peter Jackson’s old films like ‘Bad Taste’ and ‘Braindead’. They’re more putrid-funny than witty-funny. Maybe you should just watch the excellent British TV series ‘Spaced’. made by the same crew as ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘Shaun of the Dead’, which I’m sure you’ll find has many echoes of both those films.

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