Thursday, February 5, 2009

Now Playing: Run Fatboy Run

I’m an ardent fan of Simon Pegg. “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” are hilarious, surprisingly deep films made by geeks for geeks. But rather than be tribute films chock full of references to the exclusion of plot (looking at you, “… Movie” uh, movies), they were smashing entertainments all their own. That they spoke the language of their respective genres fluently was almost incidental.

“Run Fatboy Run” is not up to either of those. It’s amusing for the most part, and laugh out loud funny a few times, but on the whole is a surprisingly toothless affair. It isn’t like Pegg is incapable of going dark (witness the battle in the bar at the end of “Shaun”) but here he’s just going through the motions. Granted, several of those motions are damn funny.

Pegg plays a guy who literally ran away from his pregnant fiancé (Thandie Newton) on their wedding day, and he’s more or less been running from life for the subsequent five years. He’s stuck as a security guard for a clothing store, he’s behind on his rent, and he’s not setting the best example for his son. He’s happy with life though, despite not going anywhere at all. But that changes when his ex brings home a dashing and successful money man (Hank Azaria) who can offer her and their son all the things that Pegg can’t.

Pegg winds up deciding to run a charity marathon against Azaria and a large chunk of the film is his hilarious training. A few of the running gags killed me, like his repeated failure to set his alarm clock, but the charming story sort of runs out of gas right before the marathon.

The good news is it picks back up again in ways I wasn’t expecting once the marathon begins, and the result will leave a smile on your face. Especially the way they depict “The Wall.” You’ll know it when they come to it. So to speak.

First time director David Schwimmer of all people manages to keep things moving but overall lacks the lively touch of frequent Pegg contributor Edgar Wright. Wright brings an energy and focus to his films that is sorely lacking here.

“Run Fatboy Run” is a charming film, but far from a top notch one. Pegg is great as usual and has earned enough cred with me that I’ll see him in whatever he does. If supporting him means more films like “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” then I’ll even go see him in next summer’s “Star Trek” not-a-reboot.

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