Every spring larks itself in with a crowd-pleasing comedy, and mark the first entry as “Run, Fat Boy, Run, a movie about Dennis, a neurotic, likable chap who is not really fat. As he exclaims, “I’m not fat, just out of shape,” which is to say he is like most guys who do not spend enough time at the gym or on the courts.
As played by Simon Pegg in a topsy-turvy affair directed by TV star David Schwimmer, Dennis is a gangly misfit who flees from the altar on his wedding day; his fiancée Libby, played by Thandie Newton, is left holding more than the proverbial bag. She is pregnant with Dennis’ child, who turns out to be a sweet little kid when we meet him seven years later.
Feelings of inferiority
By this time, Dennis is still running, chasing down shoplifters who pilfer assorted garments from the London boutique where he is employed as a security guard. He still sees Libby when he picks up their son for little jaunts. But Libby has now moved up to Witt, an uptight, fit-as-a-fiddle American businessman played by Hank Azaria. Witt is not only full of himself, but confident enough to woo Libby and play surrogate father to the boy.
Dennis is beside himself, wracked with feelings of inferiority. When Witt announces his intention to run in a London marathon, Dennis sees both an opening and a last chance. It is now time to reduce the emerging pot, whip himself into shape and redeem himself by competing in a marathon. His best friend (Dylan Moran) places a hefty bet that Dennis will finish something for the first time in his life, while his neighbor, a corpulent Indian named Mr. Ghosdastidar, prods him along on his morning workouts by occasionally applying the flat end of a metal spatula to his derriere.
As you may guess, a good many of the movie’s laughs emanate from Dennis’ ridiculously grueling training sessions.
You may, if you wish, guess how this comedy progresses and ends, and if you conclude that it is as endearing as it is predictable or as predictable as it is endearing, you earn a doctorate in plot prognostication. As funny as “Run, Fat Boy, Run” may be, it also exudes a paint-by-numbers quality consistent with other British comedies more than a little dependent on the buffoonery of its leading man.
Enter Mr. Pegg, who made a splash in “Shaun of the Dead.” His performance is pleasant and occasionally hilarious.
It’s quite good enough for us to buy into his impersonation of a bumbling loser who finally musters up the will to fight for his place and for the integrity of a family unit threatened by the haughty presence of a smug Yank from Chicago.
You will root for Pegg’s Dennis as he struggles to reach the finish line and tacitly hiss at Azaria’s smug mannerisms.
Newton, who has developed into a fine actress, really has little room to shine here.
Hers is a stock character with little dimension. The same can be said of this amiable comedy. It whisks along with friendly intentions, a likable leading man and a transparent plot.
‘Run, Fat Boy, Run’
DIRECTED BY David Schwimmer
SCREENPLAY BY Michael Ian Black
STARRING Simon Pegg, Hank Azaria, Thandie Newton, Dylan Moran and Jade Ramsey
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes