Run Fat Boy Run
This review was written for the festival screening of "Run, Fat Boy, Run."
Toronto International Film Festival
TORONTO -- In his filmmaking debut, actor David Schwimmer heads across the Atlantic but sticks close to the familiar territory of rom-com convention. The result holds few surprises but is crowd-pleasing, and despite lacking marquee stars could do well with the date-night mainstream.
The pic benefits from a loveable-loser turn by Simon Pegg, but the "Shaun of the Dead" star's presence may also lead to disappointment for those familiar with his work. Fans of "Shaun" and "Hot Fuzz" may arrive expecting the co-writer of those self-aware comedies to bring some of his genre-savvy meta-humor to the romantic comedy. Pegg shares writing credit here, but evidently was brought in simply to add local color, not to lampoon a genre that could use a sharp-witted poke in the eye.
Pegg is Dennis, whose biggest wrong turn in life (and there's been competition) was leaving fiancee Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar even though she was carrying his child. Five years later, he shares parenting duties, lives in the basement of an Indian widower, and secretly hopes to win back Libby's heart.
Good luck to him, now that Libby has met Whit (Hank Azaria), who's rich, American, good-looking, and even (until the inevitable flaws emerge) an all-around swell guy. Dennis's reconciliation hopes, which seem not to have been on the front burner until Whit's arrival, now rest on his proving to Libby that he's capable of change -- that is, on his response to her familiar-sounding complaint, "you've never finished anything in your life." Whit's about to run a marathon, so Dennis's path is clear.
The ensuing training/disappointment/triumph arc follows all the familiar beats, with a diverting turn by Dylan Moran (the prig in "Shaun") as the best friend who bets his savings on Dennis and thus must become his coach, despite being just as lazy as Dennis is. Pegg is really the reason to show up -- he and Newton have little chemistry, but she's lovely and he's funny, which suffices.
In place of the absurdist pop-culture humor he's known for, Pegg is given some physical gags (like a gross-out bit involving a pus-filled blister) and left to fill in the gaps with personality. The movie gets some help from fresh pop tunes on the soundtrack, though the score itself tends to be (like the button-pushing flashbacks, motivational dialogue, and climactic revelations) fairly on-the-nose. Lack of inventiveness aside, the picture offers fewer opportunities for eye-rolling than many of its peers, and bodes well for Pegg's prospects in roles outside the niche he has carved with director/co-writer Edgar Wright -- not that fans will want to see him stray far from that partnership.
RUN, FAT BOY, RUN
Director: David Schwimmer
Writers: Michael Ian Black, Simon Pegg
Producers: Robert Jones, Sarah Curtis
Executive producers: Joseph Infantolino, Alexa L. Fogel, Nigel Green, Camela Galano, Rolf Mittweg, Martha Coleman
Director of photography: Richard Greatrex
Production designer: Sophie Becher
Music: Alex Wurman
Costume designer: Annie Hardinge
Editor: Michael Parker
Dennis: Simon Pegg
Libby: Thandie Newton
Whit: Hank Azaria
Gordon: Dylan Moran
Mr. Ghoshdashtidar: Harish Patel
Jake: Matthew Fenton
Maya: India de Beaufort
Running time -- 99 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13