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Arts & Culture

Run, Fatboy, Run

The fatboy of the title is Dennis (Pegg of course). We find him sweating profusely and considering his limited options as his pregnant bride-to-be Libby (the lovely Thandie Newton) waits at the altar. Dennis' final decision: run! Run as fast as he can away from responsibility and commitment. Five years later the film finds Dennis is still running. He's trying to rundown a shoplifter from the lingerie store where he works and it's not a pretty sight. But he hasn't run entirely away from responsibility. We discover that he has maintained contact with his son, who is now five, and is at least trying to be a presence in his life.

Then Dennis discovers that there's someone new in Libby's life, Whit (Hank Azaria). Whit's rich, attractive and in such good shape that he's running a marathon for charity. Well la-di-da says Dennis, so is he. Not really but that's all Dennis can come up with at the spur of the moment to make himself feel less inferior is Whit's presence. But what begins as something of a bluff turns into a character defining decision for Dennis. He decides that for once in his life he will commit to something and see it through to the end - no matter what. And then maybe he can win the girl back!

The formula is achingly familiar, like a muscle cramping up. Both the director and co-writer cut their teeth and gained fame in American TV. Director Schwimmer starred in the wildly (but to my taste inexplicably) popular TV sitcom Friends , while co-writer Michael Ian Black has acted in a variety of TV shows including Reno 911! and served as an actor and writer for Stella . Their background comes through in the sitcomy way Run, Fatboy, Run plays out. Gags like Dennis passionately kissing his mirror or using a mannequin's hand to scratch the rash on his crotch are low sitcom gags that might get a quick laugh but which ultimately feel stale and cheap. Similarly, Dennis' relationship with his son is reduced to farts jokes.


Pegg, who plays Dennis and co-wrote the script, has revealed far sharper creative skills than his Fatboy co-horts. But the style of humor he's displayed in Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the Brit com Spaced , relies far more on character and detail than broad gags. I'm guessing that if Pegg had written more of the father-son relationship we might have seen Dennis sparing his son the humiliation of buying a Jar-Jar Binks action figure or he could have argued the merits of the original trilogy over the more recent ones. That would have revealed more about their relationship than sitting in a tree and making fart noises.

Similarly, Pegg's character of Dennis never develops beyond a comic type. He's the slacker dude who has to finally step up to responsibility. The thing that was great about the work Pegg has done with co-writer and director Edgar Wright ( Shaun, Hot Fuzz and Spaced ) is that they engaged you with the characters first and made you genuinely care about. In Run, Fatboy, Run our engagement with the characters is superficial. Sure we like Dennis and cheer on his Rocky-like endeavors, but it's like a knee jerk response to the formula.

Pegg and Newton are definitely appealing performers. So too is Dylan Moran (Davs from Shaun of the Dead ) who plays Dennis' friend and Libby's cousin. The scenes between Pegg and Moran are the most entertaining in the film. Including a very comic British fight where they do more slapping and falling than actually hitting. And Hank Azaria makes a fittingly smarmy Mr. Perfect. But Azaria's Whit is so obviously not Mr. Right that no one in the audience is likely to doubt where the film is heading.

Run, Fatboy, Run (rated PG-13 for some rude and sexual humor, nudity, language and smoking) is disappointing for anyone who has come to love Pegg in the British films and TV show he's done with Edgar Wright. It's nice to see him get a lead in a US (at least partially) backed production but if this is the kind of material he'll be asked to do then I suggest Run Pegg Run back to England and your mates who seem to know you and your style of humor much better than these Yanks. While I can watch Shaun or Spaced repeatedly and with great joy each time (and often finding new things), Run, Fatboy, Run is a film that I'm glad I saw. It passed the time and Pegg and his fellow actors were all enjoyable to watch. But I really don't feel any inclination to see again. You don't know how it pains me to say that about something with Simon Pegg.

Companion viewing: Shaun of the Dead, Spaced, Rocky, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner