Hollywood Product - Run, Fatboy, Run
GENRE: Redeemable loser comedy
THE PITCH: Five years after leaving his pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton) at the altar, lovable "unfit" loser Dennis (Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead) vows to run a London marathon to win her back from her rich American boyfriend Whit (Hank Azaria).
MONEY SHOTS: Dennis sprawled on a locker-room floor after his first spin class. Whit's bigger, cooler boat eclipses Dennis' toy boat when he plays with his son. After one of his first runs, Dennis gets a blister that takes up nearly half of his foot. In general, Pegg's expressions are the film's greatest asset, from Dennis' first close-up of premarital jitters to his stricken look when his friend Gordon (Dylan Moran) slaps him.
BEST LINE: "Please keep your hands out of the 'scrotal zone' whilst you're at work," says Dennis' boss after he mentions a post-running rash. Only someone British could successfully use the words "scrotal" and "whilst" in the same sentence.
WORST LINE: "Always running away, never running in the right direction." The film never slows down with the "running away from responsibility" theme.
FASHION STATEMENTS: Dennis first attempts to train while running in teeny tiny shorts. He frequently wears T-shirts for hip, vintage bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees and David Bowie (the soundtrack includes Bowie's "Queen Bitch"). For the big race, Dennis wears the shirt for his charitable sponsor, Erectile Dysfunction Awareness.
FLESH FACTOR: Dennis recoils at nude (but concealed from the audience) glimpses of Whit, who asks "Can you see my point?" Simon's unsavory pal Gordon has two buffalo shots as punchlines.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Dennis and Whit compete in the fictional Nike River Run, so the familiar swoosh is all over the film. (Pegg was reportedly chagrined at the level of corporate sponsorship.)
STOP THIS CLICHÉ: Dennis has a crabby, chubby Indian landlord named Mr. Ghoshdashtidar who becomes his assistant trainer. Fast becoming its own stereotype is the "vulgar British best friend" (usually the second banana in Hugh Grant movies), whom Moran plays here with a little too much of a deadpan.
POP REFERENCES: Dennis' son (Matthew Fenton) watches The Fellowship of the Ring when we first see him, and Dennis disappoints him by failing to get tickets to the (real) Lord of the Rings stage show. Dennis tries to drink a glass of raw eggs just like in Rocky. Fatboy reveals Dennis' poster of Team America: World Police – a film that has a song about training montages – and has a training montage of its own.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The mark of a great comic actor isn't how funny he is in a strong comedy, but how funny he is in a weak one. Pegg affirms his skills as a humorous, ingratiating lead, but Run, Fatboy, Run, the directorial debut of "Friends'" David Schwimmer, looks more like a heavy-handed English rom-com like Bridget Jones' Diary than Pegg's ingenious efforts such as Hot Fuzz. Early on Dennis says, "I'm not fat, I'm unfit," and Run, Fatboy, Run proves pretty flabby, too.