RUN FATBOY RUN directed by David Schwimmer, written by Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg, with Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran and Matthew Fenton. An Odeon Films release. 101 minutes. Opens Friday (March 28). Rating: NNN
Despite making two of the decade’s smartest, funniest movies, Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg has yet to break in North America.
Run Fatboy Run won’t do it, either, but at least it puts the winning English comic closer to the shipping routes, so to speak, as the star of a mainstream romantic comedy pitched to an audience beyond the rabid genre fans of his aforementioned collaborations with Edgar Wright.
Pegg plays Dennis, a London slacker who ditched his pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton) in a panic five years ago and hasn’t found a way to move past that horrible mistake. He’s slid, rather inelegantly, into a state of sloth. But when his ex seems ready to wed a slick, athletic American (Hank Azaria), Dennis decides to reclaim his abandoned sense of self by running the London marathon.
Wackiness fails to ensue, largely because Pegg can’t quite reconcile his own subtle comic sensibility with the clichéd character arcs embedded in Michael Ian Black’s original script, which was set in New York and rewritten by Pegg once he’d been tapped to star.
Pegg’s also got to deal with director David Schwimmer’s sitcom-literalist insistence on telegraphing jokes and emotional moments for some imagined maximum effect.
But then there are Dennis’s scenes with his best pal Gordon, played by the invaluable Dylan Moran, who appeared with Pegg in Shaun and is probably best known as the star of the scabrous Britcom Black Books. Moran’s mere presence earns the movie its third N; he’s so effortlessly funny, and Pegg responds to him with such natural glee, that their scenes together make sitting through all the other crap worthwhile.
Well, not worthwhile. But bearable.