Given how shrill and unpleasant supposed romantic comedies from big studios can be, it’s a relief that the gentle, forgettable rom-com Run Fatboy Run doesn’t spend its entire running time assaulting your senses. It’s far too tame and timid for something like that, and its slacker hero’s quest to win over his love is not nearly as grand as those engaged in by other rom-com protagonists. That lack of urgency both helps and hurts the film, as it doesn’t have to strain to justify an absurd high concept, but it also never makes a convincing case for the importance of schlubby security guard Dennis (Pegg) getting back together with Libby (Newton), whom he jilted at the altar five years ago.
Since freaking out on his wedding day, Dennis has had a strained but cordial relationship with bakery-owner Libby, with whom he has a five-year-old son (Libby was pregnant on the day Dennis abandoned her). Spurred on by the presence of an unctuous new boyfriend (Azaria) in Libby’s life, Dennis decides to finally make up for his mistake and prove he’s changed.
How does he do that? By entering the same charity marathon that Libby’s new beau Whit is training for. Of course, Dennis is lazy and horribly out of shape, and it’s never quite clear why he thinks that his completing the race will convince Libby of his love and worth. But Pegg (rewriting a script by comedian Michael Ian Black) and director Schwimmer (yep, Ross from Friends) wring some mild humor from Dennis’ doomed efforts, mostly thanks to his relationships with his lecherous, gambling-addicted best friend and gruff Indian landlord.
None of it’s particularly sharp or new, and the plot proceeds along lazily predictable lines. It’s especially disappointing given the effective twist Pegg put on romantic comedy in Shaun of the Dead, which both followed and cleverly tweaked genre conventions. Schwimmer never takes advantage of the film’s London setting, and the marathon angle only provides opportunity for rampant product placement. Fatboy may be more welcome than the latest Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson vehicle, but only by a nose.
Run Fatboy Run
Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria
Directed by David Schwimmer