Movie News & Reviews

Run Fatboy Run overrun with cliches

Simon Pegg's set the bar awfully high for himself with Shaun of theDead and Hot Fuzz.

When he's in something like Run Fatboy Run, then, and it'spretty funny but not all that great, it's a letdown. Wise men knowthe secret to life is to fail early and fail often. When you suck foryears on end, nobody bats an eye when you make Armageddon 2.That's why I regularly set fires at the bookstore where I work andinsert 15 ethnic slurs into each of these reviews. When yourbosses are used to arson and bigotry, basic competence starts to looklike priceless genius.

Since I hadn't heard of Pegg before Shaun of the Dead, I canonly assume that was the first thing he's ever done. Like a fool, hehad to go and make it totally awesome. I hope you're happy, Mr. Pegg. I sure am whenever I watch one of your hilarious movies.

In a fit of panic, Pegg runs out on pregnant fiancee Thandie Newton ontheir wedding day. Five years later, he's a doughy security guard ata lingerie store, and she's seriously involved with wealthy and buffedHank Azaria, a man so perfect he runs marathons in his spare time.

Pegg's still carrying a torch for Newton, who he sees whenever hespends time with their son. His not-so-brilliant plan to prove he canfollow through on his goals and win her back is to finish the marathonAzaria will be running in three weeks from now.

His training, as usual, gets off to a slow start. But degenerate,compulsive-gambling friend Dylan Moran has bet all he has Pegg willfinish the race, and with the help of Pegg's big-hearted landlordHarish Patel, he begins to believe he'll be able to make it through,whether it wins back Newton or not.

Run Fatboy Run is a romantic comedy, and the thing aboutromantic comedies is the side characters are usually funnier andcooler than the boring mope who plays the lead. Then again, mostrom-coms don't star Simon Pegg, the UK's finest contribution to humanculture since combining the bagpipes with "Amazing Grace." Thoughhe's funniest here when teamed with Moran and Patel, the believablegoofiness he brings to his family scenes cuts the sap and keeps itfeeling real.

Which is more than can be said for its contrived plot. So Newton hasto choose between Pegg and Azaria. I will give you three guesses asto who turns out to be the sweet, charming, heartfelt one, and who isthe mean-spirited and materialistic asshole who's also bad with kids.What kind of a choice is that? Granted, Newton's character doesn'tseem to exist as anything more than a nice, pleasant-looking prize, somaybe she wouldn't be able to make a harder decision when her brain isalso two-dimensional.

But this laziness in the writing strips Pegg of the dignity he ends upearning: if Newton ends up back with him, is it really because he'sjust that good? Or is it more because if she married Azaria instead,their kids would be half pond scum?

Writer Michael Ian Black, taking time away from his busy "I Love the'80s"-appearing schedule, does better with the marathon, givingdirector David Schwimmer the material to make something that feelsplausible yet unexpected, a little over-sweet but mostly triumphant.

That just makes the whole "guy who looks perfect gradually revealsself to be total jerk" thing all the more frustrating. As it is,Run Fatboy Run is a funny, slightly off-center movie with someheartfelt moments. When the humor dries up or gets a bit broad, thecast is always there to pick it back up in the next scene. But toomuch of its romance is too easy and cliched, something that exists inthe movies rather than anyone's actual life. It's funny, yeah, it'sjust not all that different from any other romantic comedy you've everseen.

Grade: B-