Run Fatboy Run (2007)
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Sport
So I’ve started a quest to see more Simon Pegg movies and put this one in my Netflix queue. It’s got a lower star ranking than does “Hot Fuzz” or “Shaun of the Dead” so I went into it with lower expectations. Luckily for me, it exceeded those expectations by being a fun and touching film.
Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg) is, not to put too fine a point on it, a loser. Five years ago on the day of his wedding to his pregnant girlfriend Libby (the lovely Thandie Newton), he panicked and did a runner. Now he’s discovered that she has someone new in her life and it might be serious. Whit (Hank Azaria) is everything Dennis isn’t: successful, considerate, in shape and the perfect boyfriend plus he loves Dennis and Libby’s son Jake (Matthew Fenton, who is adorable).[nggallery id=51]
Desperate to get back into Libby’s life, Dennis vows to run the same marathon Whit will be running. The catch? Dennis is in terrible shape and the race is only 3 weeks away. Can he, with the help of Libby’s cousin Gordon (Dylan Moran), who’s bet a bundle on him, and his landlord Mr. Gosdashtidar (the hilarious Harish Patel), shape up and actually have a hope in hell of finishing the race? And if he can, what might that lead to?
Okay, this isn’t quite as good as either “Shaun” or “Fuzz” but it’s charming in its own way. In addition to being a rom com, it’s also about Dennis’s relationship with his son and how Dennis changes himself. Yeah, some of his motivation is the fact that Gordon has bet heavily with a few fairly shady characters on Dennis finishing the race and that Mr. Goshdashtidar can wield a mean spatula to Dennis’s backside to “encourage” his training sessions, but in the end it’s Dennis who makes the decision to try and change himself for the better.
Hank Azaria is fabulous playing the straight man whose layers are slowly peeled away. Part of the tension in the film is wondering if he’s really as great as we first see him to be and worrying over whether Dennis truly has a chance to try and win Libby back. Without turning into a shrew or a hardhearted woman, Thandie Newton gets the exact look of disillusionment with Dennis’s antics needed to convey how badly he hurt her.
The film pokes fun at all the “training to win” movies (watch for Dennis’s first workout session and when he’s trying to drink eggs) then adds Pegg’s own fantastic bits (dealing with the rash he gets “in the scrotal zone” while at work). He plays his character straight which also gets us past some of what would otherwise be silly or cloying moments in the film. The finale of the marathon might strike some as too “feel good” but there’s been enough fun along the way to balance it all out.
If most any other British actors (Hugh Grant’s endless, stuttering romantic comedy roles immediately come to mind) had played Dennis, I doubt I would have enjoyed the film half so much. It’s Pegg’s earnest befuddlement that sells the show. It’s the fact that he begins as such a complete loser (watch for what the little old lady in Libby’s bakery calls him) and really has little room to sink much lower that allows him to rise to the point where we’re cheering him on and hoping for a reconciliation.
I love the fact that the film ends with hope. As the director, David Schwimmer, and Pegg said, the movie could have been sandwiched between two weddings. But instead, they chose to have Dennis win the chance to maybe win Libby back. It’s a feel good ending without us being forced to “feel good.” For those who are beginning to work their way through Pegg’s oeuvre, this is a nice stop along the way.